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Loss of a Career as a Competitive Athlete

If I think I would have started to earn income from my athletic pursuits if I hadn’t been hurt, will I be compensated for that loss?

In the recent judgment of the British Columbia Supreme Court (indexed at Cirillo v Mai 2016 BCSC 1524), the plaintiff was a 23-year-old woman who was injured in a collision.  Prior to the collision, the plaintiff was a competitive trampoline athlete who had competed internationally with Team Canada.  However, she had not received full membership on the team, nor had she been “carded” – that is, become an athlete receiving monthly funding from Sport Canada to pursue her training.

The plaintiff’s collision injuries significantly reduced her ability to train and compete in trampolining, and she argued that her crash injuries had caused her to  lose the opportunity to become a carded athlete – and therefore had lost the income associated with carding.

Unfortunately for the plaintiff, a director at Gymnastics Canada gave evidence that she simply did not have the talent to ever become a carded athlete:

[21]         According to Mr. Stephan Duchesne, the Director of High Performance Trampolining for Gymnastics Canada, the national team will allow athletes who do not meet the required criteria to travel with and compete for the team, but such athletes are not recognized as full members of the team. Such athletes are sometimes given the opportunity, as was the plaintiff, to compete for carding through such events, but when given that opportunity, the plaintiff did not do well. I accept that on one such occasion, the plaintiff was understandably upset over the death of one of her coaches, but the fact remains that she was unable to meet the required degree of difficulty for carding eligibility.

[22]         Mr. Duchesne said that in order to qualify for membership on the Canadian team, or for Olympic competition, a trampoline athlete must not only meet certain scoring criteria, but must also demonstrate the ability to perform the required skills at the required degree of difficulty. He explained that while the plaintiff could perform required skills, she had been unable to demonstrate the ability to do so at the necessary degree of difficulty, and thus did not qualify for national team standing, or for carding or Olympic competition. He agreed that the plaintiff was in fact considered the seventh ranked Canadian senior woman in 2012, and her rank was unofficial, as only those in the top five are eligible for official ranking.

[23]         Insofar as her lost carding opportunity was concerned, the evidence of Mr. Duchesne was clear that the plaintiff had yet to meet the necessary degree of difficulty standards to achieve carding status, and in any event, there were others ranked ahead of her for such status.

[24]         While the plaintiff contended that she could, through hard work, achieve the necessary degree of difficulty standards, and that others ahead of her might drop out of the sport, I am unable to accept that she has met the onus of proof required to support such a contention. She led no evidence of who was ahead of her for carding purposes, and whether they remained active in competition or had retired since the Collisions. Moreover, having devoted the extensive time and effort that she did to her sport for 17 years without achieving the necessary degree of difficulty standards, I am unable to assume that she would have done so, but for the Collisions.

Accordingly, the plaintiff was not compensated for the loss of income associated with carding.  This case provides a cautionary example regarding witnesses – it’s not clear who called Mr. Duchesne to the stand, but it seems likely that he was testifying for the plaintiff to describe the change in her athleticism before and after the crash. However, on the issue of her talent, he was (rightly) perfectly frank – destroying the plaintiff’s income loss claim in the process.