Natasha Wodak is one of Canada’s top distance runners. In addition to competing at both the Pan-Am and Olympic Games, Natasha holds the Canadian Women’s 10,000m record (31:41 at the Payton Jordan Invite in 2015), ran the second fastest half marathon by a Canadian woman (1:11:20 at the 2015 NYC Half), and took the crown at the 2015 Canadian 5K Road Race Championships (15:57).
Somehow, Natasha – along with Lanni Marchant and Krista DuChene – was not selected for carding by Athletics Canada (AC), the nation’s governing body for athletics, cross country and road running. This is the second year that Natasha has not been carded.
Carding is essentially a stipend that assists athletes with expenses pertaining to training and competing as well as living costs. Carding is awarded based on performance as well as potential to medal at future international events in addition to other criteria.
Natasha was kind enough to provide us with some of her thoughts on the decision and the current state of AC.
Any regrets about your very bold statement the other day (see image above)?
Nope- if I did I would have taken it off my social media.
How is it possible given your achievements and credentials that you were denied carding?
Honestly, I really don’t know. It’s pretty ridiculous. But here’s the reasoning from AC. I was denied carding because AC has strict (flawed) criteria for carding. Points were given for making the Olympic team, bridging the gap (BTG) and performance pathway (PP).* I received a point for making the Olympic team but not for BTG or PP.
AC examined times from 2014 to 2016. Because I did not run in 2014 due to injury, AC should have examined my times in 2013 as per their own protocol (they stated in their criteria that they would look at injury/illness/pregnancy if needed). As a result, my Canadian record of 31:41 in 2015 was used as my baseline rather than slower previous times (33:09 in 2013) I definitely bridged the gap but was essentially penalized for running fast in 2015.
Performance pathway discriminates against older athletes. So as you can see the system to determine carding is very flawed and does not identify our best performing athletes.
Whats going on? How have things worked with AC in the past and how is it working now?
This same flawed approach has been going on for years. I was denied carding last year for similar reasons.
You spoke out saying, “If AC doesn’t support me then I want nothing to do with them. I will not put up with their bullshit.” Are you nervous about going to war with your sport’s governing body- the people who hold the purse strings?
AC has never provided me with any funding or support, so there is nothing they can take from me. They can’t deny me a spot on national teams if I run fast enough.
Have you heard from AC?
Does this make you hate running?
I will always love to run – it is my passion. It’s just too bad politics play such a large role in athletics.
We have been hearing about how running’s popularity is exploding. That more women are running and more people are spending money on sneakers and races across the country are selling out. Should that in some way trickle up to the elite practitioners of the sport? Do you feel that not having our elite women visible and at the forefront of major competition will hurt that trend?
Having elite women role models is extremely important. We have to support the women’s running community. It’s discouraging for other up and coming Canadian distance runners to see their role models not receive support from their governing body.
A lot of athletes including our strongest women were not provided carding this year. Can you say a little about how that may impact Canada’s ability to compete on the world stage?
Krista and Lanni have elevated Canadian marathon running to an amazing level. They did not receive funding this year either due to similar reasons as me. How can we compete on the world stage when AC does not fund its best athletes?
Christabel Netty is Canada’s record holder in the Long Jump. She placed 4th last year at the World Championships. This year she did not jump further then her Canadian record set the year before. She also didn’t perform to her best abilities at the Olympics, placing 20th. She received a bonus point for placing in the top 20. If she had placed 21st, she would not be carded right now either for the same reasons as me. That is absolutely crazy to possibly not fund Christabel. She was freaking 4th place at the world championships last summer!!! This just goes to show how flawed the AC system of carding is.
How does the decision change your long and short term goals?
Because I believe so strongly about this, in the short term I will limit my participation in any AC sponsored events unless necessary to qualify for the world championships or national team events. Hopefully this will bring attention to the matter.
Are there other viable options for someone like you when AC doesn’t come through?
I am used to AC not coming through. I have not received a penny from AC. I will have to rely on road race prize money and sponsor support.
Can AC possibly redeem themselves in your eyes? If not for you but for future athletes like you who may need their support.
Absolutely – AC needs to reevaluate the carding process and remove or decrease decision making power from the Head Coach.
Are there any actions you hope to take going forward in changing the way AC makes their decisions or in how athletes secure support?
I would like to sit down with Lanni and other elite athletes and discuss next steps. I want to get the athlete reps involved to see if change is possible.
BTG at PP are the two means employed by AC to determine an athlete’s “realistic potential to win a medal” and “realistic potential to become a finalist.” A full explanation of the process can be found here.
BTG: Athlete performance trend over the past 3 years compared with event progression (using Olympic Games/World Championship finalists and World Rankings in years without a major championship) over the past 3 years.
PP: Average seasonal best performances and career pathway analysis for the finalists at the last 3 major Championships.