In what might be one of the most impressive sporting comebacks in Canadian women’s sporting history, Owen Sound’s Larisa Yurkiw is looking to return to the ski slopes after a hurt knee sidelined her dreams. Looking to return to her ranking as the fastest Alpine Skier in the world, the 25 year-old’s biggest obstacle is money.
Unceremoniously dropped from Alpine Canada this year, the road back has been a hard-fought one for the former gymnast. Alpine Canada is throwing their support towards medal favorites, including Marie-Michele Gagnon, whom Yurkiw defeated to win the national downhill title in March 2013 in Whistler, BC.
It was Yurkiw’s first victory since 2008, where she claimed the downhill and super-G. Although she was the only full-time downhill and super-G racer for Canada, the reason for the shocking move was based on qualifying standards.
After earning a World Cup top ten finish in 2009, she was one of Canada’s most promising skiers. Sadly, a knee injury at Val-d’Isere, France in December 2009 left her with torn knee ligaments. The injury cost her a chance to compete on home soil at the Vancouver Winter Games, along with a two year absence from World Cup races. Without the support of Alpine Canada, Yurkiw has had to finance her comeback while looking for another country to compete with.
Through the efforts of the website Pursuit, she managed to raise over $20,000 in order to cover team fees last season. She estimates that this season’s budget will exceed $100,000. Of note, she found a second home with the German team, having trained this past summer in Zermatt, Switzerland. Her coach Kurt Mayr graciously donated his time for her comeback.
While pursuit continues to be the remedy for many athletes’ financial woes, Yurkiw is looking for a larger sum of money that would ideally come from a corporate sponsor. The need for more money comes as she is looking to make that last push towards the Sochi Winter Games.
Having had to train alone for her Winter Games dream, Yurkiw’s story is one that is rare and amazing. Tragically, the jubilation and desolation in her career came within one year. Her pinnacle as the fastest female ski racer in the world came on January 17, 2009. Sadly, two months before the Vancouver Winter Games were to begin, a crash would result in an unforeseen two year absence.
The character and resiliency in mounting a comeback for Sochi has displayed what truly makes her a champion. Ambition, resilience and courage are all words that could define Yurkiw’s hard road back. While her focus should only be on rehabilitation and competition, the sad reality of life as an amateur athlete is that paying the bills overshadows many of the commitments needed to become a world champion.
Photo credit: Malcolm Carmichael/Alpine Canada
A sponsor is certainly investing in Yurkiw’s dream but the journey for her to find one can be a difficult struggle. Prior to the Vancouver Games, she had enjoyed the sponsorship of President’s Choice. Her unique situation is one that would be certainly worthy of public funding.
While the subject of providing public money for athletes is a source of debate, there is also the issue of dignity. Although Yurkiw is a strong woman, her struggle is a sad example for someone who wants to be a world class athlete. There are unique cases such as this one where she is more than worthy of being funded. Even if she does not earn a place on top of the podium, the hand up said funds would provide is one that is well worth it.