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Le plongeur canadien Nathan Zsombor-Murray participe à la ronde préliminaire de l’épreuve masculine de la tour de 10 m aux Jeux olympiques de Tokyo 2020. (Andrew Lahodynskyj/COC)

New bursary program aims to enhance quality of life for Quebec Olympic athletes and propel them to podium dreams 

Every day, Canadian Olympic diver Nathan Zsombor-Murray travels four hours between his family’s home in Pointe-Claire, a suburb tucked in Montreal’s West Island, the Olympic stadium in the East End and Downtown Montreal, where he attends school. 

Zsombor-Murray, who will be 21 years old this April, says he has been making this commute for nearly a decade, since he was in seventh grade.

“I remember in high school, I would finish school at 12 and then I would rush out of class five to ten minutes later to catch a bus, which went to a metro, and then the metro went to the stadium,” Zsombor-Murray says.

“The hours I spend commuting are hours that I’m spending away from recovery, preparing lunches for the next day, doing homework or getting to bed earlier.”

This year, however, Zsombor-Murray believes he finally has the financial freedom to comfortably move to the city on his own, as one of five recipients selected to be awarded funding through the Bursary Program for Quebec Olympic Athletes, the Canadian Olympic Foundation’s new award program. 

Established through a $500,000 gift from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous, the program is designed to offer financial relief to athletes from Quebec and aims to help offset the rising costs of training and competition as they strive to represent Canada on the world stage at Paris 2024, Milano-Cortina 2026, and beyond. 

Recipients will receive $20,000 each year, renewable for up to five years.

Living closer to his training centre and school campus, Zsombor-Murray says, allows him to spend time focusing on his sport, along with other aspects of his life.

The five athletes that have been selected to receive the inaugural bursary are:

Éliot Grondin, Snowboard (Sainte-Marie, Que.)

Sophia Jensen, Canoe-Kayak (Chelsea, Que.)

Marion Thénault, Freestyle Skiing (Sherbrooke, Que.)

Tammara Thibeault, Boxing (Shawinigan, Que.)

Nathan Zsombor-Murray, Diving (Pointe-Claire, Que.)

“I’m extremely honored and humbled by this donation, which would be contributing directly to my success. The donor has now sort of become a part of my journey,” Zsombor-Murray says.

“When I was told I had been chosen for the bursary program, I called my mom and started crying,” said sprint canoer Sophia Jensen. 

“In my sport, we don’t get the funding needed for all that we do, especially having our national team training centre based in Nova Scotia when I’m from Quebec. It means so much to me to have financial stress relieved to just focus on my sport and the Olympic dream.”

The program is open to both winter and summer athletes, and recipients were selected based on dedication to high-performance excellence, previous Olympic participation, Olympic potential, and the impact this bursary will have on the athlete’s financial ability to compete on the world stage. 

Zsombor-Murray, has qualified to represent Team Canada this summer at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, along with fellow recipient and Olympian, Tammara Thibeault. Sprint canoer and bursary recipient Sophia Jensen has also qualified a spot for Canada in her respective event. 

“Quebec has a rich sport and Olympic heritage, and there are so many inspiring athletes from this province competing for Team Canada,” said Eric Myles, Chief Sport Officer of the Canadian Olympic Committee. 

“We’re so grateful to this donor who believes in sport, and understands that their support will make a huge difference to Quebec athletes on their journey to the Olympic Games – not just on the field of play, but on their quality of life as an athlete and on the influence they will have on young people.”

When you invest in an athlete’s journey, you provide key resources needed to propel them over the finish line – and inspire a nation. Join Team Canada today.