Qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Games has come with some perks for Canadian Men’s National Team forward Matthew Sarmento, who has been selected as one of 50 Canadian athletes to receive a bursary from the HBC Foundation and Canadian Olympic Foundation.
Sarmento is the only field hockey player to receive the $50,000 bursary, which awards athletes $10,000 a year for five years.
“It definitely takes a weight off my back,” says Sarmento, who will soon head to Europe with the Canadian men’s field hockey team to prepare for the upcoming Olympics in Brazil. “I think one of the biggest limiting factors (to success) is financial stress.”
The bursary was awarded to athletes who have previously competed in or have qualified for the Olympic Games, or are considered Olympic hopefuls.
“With $10,000 a year coming in, I can eat a bit better, can get better supplements, and don’t have to bug my parents for rent money, right?,” says the 24 year-old native of Vancouver, British Columbia.
“A lot of little things can be taken care of, and I think it will help my game overall.”
Sarmento is in the running to be selected to represent Canada’s men at the Rio Games. It would be his first Olympic Games.
He has already put part of the bursary – of which the first instalment was distributed in January – to good use on the road to Rio.
“Field hockey cleats are sport specific – we can’t just wear an astro-turf cleat. The shoes are expensive, and we go through a few pairs every season. Thanks to the HBC athlete bursary program, I’ve been able to order new shoes,” he told Olympic.ca in an article regarding the bursary.
“Since receiving the funds, I’ve also been able to buy more nutritious groceries and I’ve purchased a bike for commuting to and from training. In speaking with other athletes who are part of the program, we all agree that this money makes a world of difference in our lives.”
The 2.5 million dollar bursary program runs through 2020 and includes Olympic medalists such as diver Jennifer Abel and ice hockey player Megan Agosta.