Sarah Wells works from 10 a.m. to five p.m. every day except Sunday, but her weeks don’t end in a paycheck on Friday.
“I think sport, especially amateur sport, is something where we don’t necessarily get a huge paycheck at the end of a week, or two week, or end of the year,” said Wells.
Wells, a 400 metre hurdler, ran at the London Olympics Games and is a four time national champion.
An amateur Olympic athlete will receive no pay for performing at the Olympics, but if they win gold, silver or bronze they will.
For a lot of people, when they see Olympic athletes they only see the good side and see them competing at the games and think how amazing their lives must have been,” Wells said.
Believing in herself has allowed her to succeed as a professional athlete in Canada.
“There are a lot of things we have to deal with, injuries, bad workouts and bad days.”
Wells spent her 2011 season injured while trying to recover from a hernia and also a stress fracture in her femur.
“I was out for nine months,” Wells said. “I didn’t think I had the ability to make it, just because of all the signs pointing in the other direction. Fortunately things played out,” she said.
When people ask what her proudest moment is, she says it wasn’t her Olympics year but rather the year she was injured.
“In that year I learned the most and hardest lessons about myself,” she said. “I really reflected on what I wanted, what my goals were, who I was as a person and as an athlete and really redefined my sense of self.”
Even with setbacks and lack of support, Wells was able to come back from injury and disappointment at the Canadian National Championship, to qualify for the Olympics.
“I think sometimes that small voice kind of creeps into your head and says, ‘why are you doing this if you don’t have the support you need,’” Wells said.
“It’s not a guaranteed salary it’s not anything we can truly rely on… but it’s something we love to do.”
A Canadian athlete will receive $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze.
Wells has the support of her family financially and was able to gain sponsorship from Nike after competing at the London 2012 Olympics.
She will train and wait another four years to perform at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, being held in Brazil.
Wells said that in pro sports such as the NBA and NHL players deserve their salaries but that it is sometimes hard to swallow.
“I think just being someone in a different sport who doesn’t see the same benefits but puts in the same amount of time makes you question that process, what you are doing and why you belong here,” Wells said.
Wells will only take three weeks off training and competing for the whole year.
“I left my house at 10 am, I am here five to six hours a day and when I get home my job doesn’t end.”
Once Wells does get home she plans her meals for the next day and often does athletic therapy on her body before bed.
“My sport consumes my mind and I think about it 25 hours a day. It is something that I can’t let go which is sometimes a strength and sometimes a weakness,” Wells said.
Nike allows support for equipment and track meet fees but Wells pays for rent, groceries and transportation on her own.
Spending an average of $120.00 on groceries per week and $200.00 on transportation per month adds up for Wells.
Once a month Wells travels to school across Ontario to speak to youth about her story.
Wells travels to practice at York University every day by the Toronto Transit Commission, an hour and half commute.
“I think that increased support is always needed,” Wells said.
“Just being able to afford treatment, transportation, facility use, things like that are obviously crucial to competing in the sports and to have limitations on that obviously dampens your ability to perform at your absolute best.”
For most amateur athletes there is no other option for what they would spend their time doing.
“I owe a lot of who I am as a person to the lessons I’ve learned through track and field,” said Wells.
Wells said she has a love hate relationship with track but it is something she does every single day and grinds herself to her absolute last breath in practice.
“You get to the point where you honestly feels like you are taking your last breath,” Wells said.
“After those moments is when you truly believe you’ve done something great and you’re on your way to success.”
Changes: Restructured the story a bit by putting more important parts up front. I also made some grammatical fixes along with clarified some terms that were unsure to an audience who may not know what they are such as National Championships.