Canadian skateboarders Balt, Ebert forced to rethink Olympic path due to pandemic

Simply competing ahead of the Tokyo Games has been difficult enough for many Canadian athletes due to travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but a shortage of qualifying events and funding has forced some members of the national skateboard team to rethink their goals.

For 11-year-old Fay DeFazio Ebert, the youngest member of the Canadian skateboard team, those issues are ones her mother Elisabeth acknowledges may change the course of Ebert’s path — possibly electing to aim for the 2024 Paris Games instead.

“There’s [a qualifier] in the [United] States and one [where] we don’t know the location yet. If she goes to all of them and skates well, it’s always a possibility,” Elisabeth said of competing in Tokyo. “There’s a chance that Fay can [go to] the next [Olympics] in three years.

“There’s also no financial support, that’s a big one. So going to these events is all out of pocket. That’s another thing, being able to get sponsors and have support so they can help fund the athletes training and path and getting to the Olympics.”

WATCH | Meet pre-teen Canadian skateboard prodigy Fay Ebert:

Fay Ebert is wasting no time trying to qualify for the Olympic Games. 2:08

None of the 12 national team members have qualified yet, with upcoming events set to take place between May and June — the Olympic qualifying period ends June 29.

The issue with qualifiers has made the 2024 Summer Games in Paris a bigger goal for fellow national team member Maddy Balt of Brooklin, Ont.

“Paris 2024 is a really big goal of mine,” the 23-year-old said. “I really want to be at that Olympics. I don’t know, with everything that’s happening with COVID, what Tokyo is going to look like and if that’s really a possibility right now for me just because of the lack of qualifiers we’re going to have.

“Monetary funding has been almost non-existent,” Balt continued, “but [Canada Skateboard] are able to help us out by giving us access to gyms, trainers and stuff like that. Because the Olympic committee hasn’t accepted them into the funding network yet, they don’t have access to all the funding that they should.”

Accessibility to funding

According to Canada Skateboard’s high performance director and coach Adam Higgins, training opportunities have been provided through an agreement with the Canadian Sport Institute.

Prior to accessing Own the Podium funding, athletes must be eligible for Sport Canada’s sport funding accountability framework. Once attained, athletes must demonstrate medal potential within four to eight years.

The goal for Canada Skateboard remains to have skaters qualify for the Olympics and put in strong performances in order to meet the necessary objectives to receive additional funding.

Skateboarding was first announced as an Olympic sport in August 2016. Set to make its debut in 2020, the Tokyo Games were postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following suspensions and cancellations to past events, only three events are scheduled prior to the Olympics: The Dew Tour in Des Moines, Iowa from May 17-23, the Street world championships in Rome, Italy from May 31-June 6 and the Park world championships from June 14-20 with the location yet to be determined.

Making the most of their opportunities

A shortage of qualifiers hasn’t been the only difficulty for the two skateboarders. Due to public health restrictions, the sense of community within the sport’s culture has also been diminished during their time training in Toronto.

Ebert says she misses the atmosphere and support she’s grown accustomed to when skating with others.

“Because of COVID, I haven’t been able to skate with anybody outside,” the Toronto native said.

“Some days I don’t want to skate, but once I know I get to the skate park it’s going to be fun because I could just practise all my tricks and get into the flow of skateboarding. Sometimes, I’m a little bit down going there because nobody’s there, but I have to take advantage of what I have right now.”

Having been unable to train with anyone besides each other when Balt is in town, the pair have grown closer in preparation for future competitions.

“We’ve definitely become closer in the past year or so,” Balt said. “We did a trip where she came out to B.C., and we were filming a little documentary and we’ve been training together in Toronto at CJ’s Skatepark for the past couple of months.

“Our relationship is pretty chill. [Fay is] a fun little kid and … it’s definitely been a blessing that we’ve had each other in the past little bit because it would’ve been a lot different if we had nobody else to skate with.”



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