Sept. 21, 2023

Donation to cover training fees surprises Olympic Oval speedskater

Student-athlete Rachel Mallard benefits from new financial initiative created by Olympian Vincent De Haître
Olympic Oval speedskater donation
Vincent De Haître, left, and Rachel Mallard at the Olympic Oval. Faculty of Kinesiology

Rachel Mallard wasn’t expecting to receive $5,400 this month. However, just days ago three-time Olympian Vincent De Haître informed her family that she was selected as the recipient of a new financial initiative in the spirit of athletes supporting athletes. The money was earmarked for her training fees at the Olympic Oval.

Mallard, a second-year neuroscience student in the Faculty of Science at the University of Calgary and a full-time Elite Athlete Pathway Stage 3 long track athlete, knows how hard it is to go to school and be a full-time athlete.

“It’s incredibly exciting to have received this financial assistance. It gives me more freedom to support my skating career so that I have the funds to pay for everything to live in Calgary. It also helps me have a more well-rounded athlete lifestyle than having to make ends meet,” she says.

Mallard has been skating since she was seven. Born in Ottawa, she decided to move to Calgary and join the Olympic Oval’s Elite Athlete Pathway under coach Mike Ireland. She most recently placed third in the 3000m and second in the mass start at the Canadian Jr. Long Track Championships in Québec City.

Vincent De Haître sets up new philanthropic fund

Vincent De Haître is no stranger to sport. He is a two-sport athlete, representing Canada internationally in both speedskating and track cycling. Already a two-time winter Olympian from Sochi 2014 and PyeongChang 2018, he competed at his first Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020.

He moved to Calgary when he was 18 — just like Mallard. By the end of his first season, he qualified and competed at Junior Worlds, and the results from that year earned him a place on the Canadian Speed Skating Development Team for the following season. He then qualified for his first World Cups in his second year and earned his place on the 2014 Olympic team at 19. This made him one of the youngest Canadian speedskaters to do so in over 40 years. All of this was possible because of the support he had from his family, which allowed him to focus on his dreams.

De Haître decided he wanted to give back to athletes — specifically from his hometown of Ottawa.

“We raised the money with an amazing group of people headed by Dave Lougheed, who organizes a bike ride called The Big Ride.  Every year, they support different causes,” he explains. “This year, they liked my vision of athletes helping athletes from Ottawa and chose to raise funds for my cause.”

For the rest of the season, Vincent will set aside 50 per cent of all new personal sponsorships and donations received to help young athletes for years to come.  

"This makes me firmly believe that others can accomplish similar athletic milestones, given the right support and opportunity to start their careers on the right path. I’ve always had the mindset that I want to leave the sport better than when I found it. And if I can help even one athlete get one step closer to their dreams, I will have been successful!" 

What will athlete philanthropy be like in the next few years?

Initiatives like this have happened a few times already. The Olympic Oval Athlete Bursary is one such fund that supports athletes, but more and more initiatives like De Haître’s are popping up​​.

“The Olympic Oval is unique in the way that all levels of speedskaters train together in the same facility. They see each other through their struggles in training and off the ice, forming incredible bonds. To see what Vincent is doing only affirms what this place and these athletes can accomplish together” says Kerry Dankers, manager, business operations, Olympic Oval.

To learn more about Vincent De Haître or to make a donation, visit his website.

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