55 Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls chase their dreams thanks to the 2022 Petro-Canada FACE Grant
There’s something to be said about athlete-coach relationships and the bonds that are built throughout both of their careers.
While these relationships are important, it’s not lost that both coaches and athletes always benefit from financial support to meet their goals. That’s why Petro-Canada’s Fuelling Athlete and Coaching Excellence (FACE) grant program is back in its 34th year to support another 55 Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls.
Every year, selected athletes and their coaches are awarded $10,000 to help ensure the only thing they have to focus on is training and performance.
The grants can be used for expenses such as competition fees, accommodations, equipment, travel, and physical rehab to help get athletes to their goals, whether it’s representing Canada at a World Cup or eventually becoming an Olympic champion.
Here’s a closer look at a few of this year’s athlete recipients:
Alexandria Loutitt (Ski Jumping)
In any sport, persistence is key. The same can definitely be said of Alexandria Loutitt when it comes to ski jumping.
“After getting to try ski jumping in a summer camp, my brother was recruited to join the [ski jumping] team,” said Loutitt. “I was sick the week of the camp and unable to attend. I was so devastated that I did not get to try. I begged my parents for almost a year, then I finally got to try it just before my 10th birthday and I was hooked.”
A decade later, Loutitt made her debut at the FIS World Championships in 2021, but her success didn’t stop there. Because of her dedication, she punched her ticket to the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games.
She credits her success in the sport to her coach, Janko Zwitter, who she says is a coach, mentor and father-figure as she trains in Slovenia.
The FACE grant makes it possible for her to train overseas and focus on her goal of becoming an Olympic gold medallist, a dream of hers since Sochi 2014 when the first women’s Olympic ski jumping event took place.
Jack Collins (Snowboard)
Snowboarding for Jack Collins is like breathing. It’s pretty hard for the Calgary athlete to remember a time when he wasn’t on the slopes.
“Snowboarding became a family activity early on and transitioned into a lifelong career path for me,” said Collins.
It was only natural that Collins would go from a weekend activity to trying his hand at competitive snowboarding, giving him, as he explains, intention, realization and something for him to not only strive for but be proud of.
Helping him reach those goals is his coach, Mike Slaughter, who has created a training environment that allows him to push beyond his limits and perform at his best.
“Mike refers to our team as the ‘true crew’. It refers to staying true to not only your personal values, but our team values as well. Being reminded that we are a team and all working together to achieve personal and team goals is important to my training.”
Through the FACE grant, Collins is not only able to achieve his goals of one day representing Team Canada at the Olympic Games, but to help build his foundation to one day share his experience and skills with others.
Maya Laylor (Weightlifting)
While most athlete-coach relationships are unbreakable, Maya Laylor has a different bond with her coach. That’s because her coach is not only the one that introduced her to weightlifting, but is also her dad, Clance.
“He knows me better than anyone,” said Laylor. “He is relentless in being the best, which encourages me to be the best I can be in and out of my sport. While training, we don’t have to say a word to each other, we just have social cues and vibe from that.”
Since picking up the sport, Laylor has been the only woman in Ontario to lift 286lbs and won gold at the 2019 and 2021 Commonwealth Championships.
Striving to make the Paris 2024 Olympic team and stand atop the podium, the FACE grant will allow her to focus on her training to get her to that level.
Benita Peiffer (Biathlon)
Looking to bring herself to the next level of her biathlon career, Benita Peiffer credits her success to her coach Julia Ystgaard.
“Julia is only a few years older than me, but we work super well together,” Peiffer explains. “She has a great understanding of the sport and my goals, which has ultimately allowed for me to have a successful journey in biathlon this year.”
Going into this season, Peiffer had her eyes set on qualifying for the IBU Cup and a place at the world junior championships. Since then, she’s hit milestones that have not only boosted her confidence but gave her the opportunity to set even bigger goals, like following in her cousin’s footsteps of becoming an Olympic champion.
“My cousin, Arnd Peiffer, was an Olympic gold medallist in biathlon. He has helped me through my path in biathlon and has inspired me to be another Olympian in the family.”
The FACE grant program will assist in paying for her yearly training, travel and equipment fees, which she hopes will help her achieve her goals.
Duan Asemota (Athletics)
Duan Asemota is hoping to make his wish into a reality.
After a high school gym teacher recommended Asemota get into athletics, it’s been a fast track to success for the Ontario born athlete with big goals.
“My dream is to be the Olympic champion and world record holder,” said Asemota. “Every 11:11 I say to myself, ‘let me be the fastest in the world.’”
Despite making the wish, the sprinter knows that hard work also needs to be put in, under the guidance of his coach, Charles Allen. After running in the NCAA for Ohio State, Asemota returned to Canada, where the two connected and have built a strong relationship.
“Charles is very relatable, and he can be very personable, but above all what is special about Charles Allen is, he’s patient. He is always interested in how to learn from other people and what they bring to the table.”
While the two are keen on getting Asemota to be one of the best in the world, the support of the FACE grant allows them to pay more attention to training and lighten travel costs.
Fay De Fazio (Skateboarding)
Most 11-year-olds are hanging out with friends or thinking about what they want to be when they grow up. For Fay De Fazio, she already knows what she wants to be: an Olympic skateboarder.
After her parents signed her up for skateboarding lessons at age eight, her love for the sport would only grow even more. The sixth grader has already been named to the first ever Canadian National Skateboard team, represented Canada at the World Skate Olympic qualifiers and competed at the 2019 Skateboard World Championships in Brazil where she was the youngest competitor.
De Fazio has already shown extreme maturity in the sport but she and her coach, Adam Hopkins, are committed to ultimately making the Paris 2024 Olympic team.
While De Fazio skates like she’s been doing it for decades, she’s still young enough to need a parent with her when she travels. The FACE grant will help alleviate some of those added travel costs and get her training to the next level.
François Gauthier-Drapeau (Judo)
The only thing that could be stronger than an athlete-coach relationship is an athlete-teammate relationship. For François Gauthier-Drapeau, he’s lucky enough to have experienced both.
The judoka was initially put into the sport to burn off some extra energy, but the after school activity evolved into a passion. Wanting to be the best, Gauthier-Drapeau looked up to athletes like London 2012 Olympic bronze medallist, Antoine Valois-Fortier, who would eventually be his teammate and later on, his coach.
“He was my training partner for years,” explains Gauthier-Drapeau. “Now, he’s my coach and is still so committed to the sport. Since he was my teammate for so long, he knows me very well and we have a very good bond.”
Just like his coach, Gauthier-Drapeau dreams of standing on the podium on the biggest sports stage in the world. Over the course of his career he’s been gaining enough confidence in his skills and talent to allow him to have big dreams of bringing home hardware for Team Canada.
While getting to the podium is the primary focus for the duo, the FACE grant will help them stay on track. The money helps with Gauthier-Drapeau’s tuition, transport and accommodation costs.
Wesley Chiu (Figure Skating)
Wesley Chiu and coach Keegan Murphy have been through it all together. From Chiu’s early days in figure skating to achieving two of his short-term goals for this season, they’ve experienced the ups and downs and have forged and positive and supportive relationship.
After tying up his first pair of skates at four years old, Chiu has traveled the world and won medals at the international level.
“I am most proud of my two medals at the 2021 ISU Junior Grand Prix series and my fourth-place finish at the 2021 ISU Challenger Series Warsaw Cup,” explains Chiu. “It required a lot of hard work and dedication to achieve these accomplishments, which made it more satisfying in the end.”
In January, the 16-year-old won the bronze medal in the senior division at the national championships and was named to the Canadian team for the 2022 ISU World Junior Championships. With that kind of success, Chiu wants to compete at a future Olympic Games.
The FACE grant will go towards Chiu’s recovery therapies along with having access to everything he needs to train and compete at a high level.
You can find the complete list of this year’s FACE recipients below.
|Julia Mehre Ystgaard
|Ching Nam Fu
|Fay De Fazio
|Jalik Dunkley Distant
|Keira Emmaline Lu
|Tosh Craig Huckabay
|Toshka Besharah Hrebacka