Megan Heinicke's quest to get back to the Olympics begins with a love story.
You may remember her as Megan Tandy — a national team biathlete who lived in the Squamish area in the lead-up to the 2010 Games. She went on to place as the top Canadian woman in three races during those Olympics.
Originally from Prince George, it was through Biathlon B.C.'s High Performance Program that she met coach, and now husband, iLmar Heinicke, years before the Games.
When the program iLmar coached set up in Squamish in 2008, Megan remained with him, feeling there were major benefits to training at Whistler Olympic Park in advance of 2010.
But since that time, Megan hasn't been eligible for Sport Canada funding — a challenge she continues to deal with today as she sets her sights on Sochi this winter.
"I made the decision to leave the national team and stay in Squamish instead," she said on Nov. 4 from Norway. "Because of the residency policy of Sport Canada, at that point, even though I qualified for government funding, I haven't received any funding since."
The policy strictly states that an athlete must spend three-quarters of their time based out of a national training centre to achieve funding. For Megan, that would mean living in either Canmore, Alta., or Val Cartier, Que.
The 25-year-old made several appeals and even had a legal investigation partially funded by PacificSport to see if an exception could be made, but to no avail.
Though she does have ongoing support from sponsors such as Accupro, a B.C. company manufacturing rifle-cleaning supplies, and the privately-held First Fund for Gold, Megan's ineligibility for Sport Canada funding means she's missed out on nearly $20,000 annually as she's chased her Olympic dreams.
"It seemed like such a home advantage to be in the Sea to Sky corridor, at the Olympic site, in addition to iLmar being an excellent coach as well as my partner. It was simply the right decision for me," she said.
"Sometimes now, I'm like, 'Man, over the years that's more than $100,000, holy cow.' But I'm done being bitter about it. It's not going to change, I don't think."
Shortly after the Olympics, much of the funding that biathlon programming in Canada had enjoyed prior to the Games was pulled and the B.C. High Performance Program was ultimately shut down, leaving iLmar out of work and forcing the Heinickes to move to iLmar's native Germany, where they continue to live today. She took the 2010-11 season away from competition as they welcomed their first child, but has spent the past two winters racing internationally, returning to Canada's world championship team in 2013.
However, it's been a "family affair" to help her stay afloat financially, as Megan and iLmar have had to pay out-of-pocket for her competition expenses, with some help from each of their families' bank accounts.
"That's been really tough," she said.
That's why she is the latest athlete to set up a pursu.it campaign, hoping to raise enough funds to keep her on the path towards Sochi.
"My teammates, it's not as though they have an easy time by any means. But if you at least have a little something as a base... at least it can work," she said. "To break even would be the first funding goal."
Megan's campaign, which launched on Nov. 2, has a target of $7,500 and offers incentives to contributors.
She has completed two-thirds of her Olympic qualification requirements and is currently in Norway preparing for an International Biathlon Union Cup race on Nov. 22 and 23 in Sweden. If she's one of the top two Canadians in that race, she'll return to the World Cup circuit and would need just one more top-30 finish to guarantee her place in Russia's Olympics in February.
Megan said she's in the best shape of her life and thinks she's capable of a top-16 finish in Sochi.
"I'm really hopeful there's interest (to support me) from the Sea to Sky corridor and just B.C. in general," she said. "In my heart, B.C. still feels like home.
"The bottom line is I want to race for Canada... I have this drive and this passion that I'm just not ready to give up."
Visit www.pursu.it/campaign/megan-heinicke to view her campaign.
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