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SBD Global/July 1, 2016/Marketing and Sponsorship

Para-Cyclist Jamie Whitmore Says U.S. Behind Europe In Treatment Of Para-Athletes

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Jamie Whitmore
The U.S. has some catching up to do regarding the treatment of para-athletes, Team USA para-cyclist Jamie Whitmore said. The 40-year-old California native, who will compete in the U.S. Paralympic Cycling Team Trials in Charlotte, N.C., on Saturday, told SBD Global that Europe is “quite a bit ahead” of the U.S. in terms of its support of para-athletes. “Most European countries treat their para-athletes pretty equal to their pro athletes,” she said. “They have access to all the same programs. But those are all federally funded.” In comparison, U.S. Paralympics, which is a division of the United States Olympic Committee, does not receive any federal funding from the U.S. government. Whitmore said that both funding structures have their advantages and disadvantages, but in her words, being an athlete “is always hard.” Whitmore was a successful cross triathlete, winning 37 Xterra championship titles, before a cancer diagnosis cut her career short in ’08. She beat the cancer twice, but it left her with “drop foot.” Doctors told her she would never run or ride again. After a painful recovery, she won her first Paralympic national title in ’12. But resilience alone is not enough to make her childhood dream of competing in the Olympics -- now Paralympics -- come true. Whitmore relies heavily on the financial support from her sponsors. “As a professional athlete you are moreso living out your dream than you are trying to make it rich,” she said. “Being a para-athlete is even more of a struggle because I think our movement is still growing.” Whitmore was able to retain some sponsors from her pre-cancer triathlon days such as Felt Bicycles and Cliff Bar. Surprisingly, she said, being a para-athlete has also opened up some new doors for her. “There are companies out there that are starting to see the value in a person who has overcome a lot and then returns to sport,” she said. Whitmore, similar to other para-athletes, generates additional income through speaking engagements. Team USA Paralympians also take advantage of official USOC partners such as Deloitte, BMW or The Hartford. Whitmore, for example, is a member of Team Deloitte. She is also part of TeamUP, which is backed by orthotics and prosthetics maker Allard. Whitmore, who won the ESPY for “Best Female Athlete with a Disability” in ’14, believes that NBC’s expanded coverage of this year’s Rio Paralympic Games and the inclusion of para-sports events alongside able-bodied competitions will help educate the public and open new opportunities for para-athletes. “I believe even 10 years ago it wasn’t as good as it is now,” she said. “It’ll just continue to get better.”
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