January 20/06 8:03 am - Interview: Lori-Ann Muenzer
Posted by Editoress on 01/20/06
Olympic gold medal winner Lori-Ann Muenzer created quite a stir when she announced last fall that she would take a year off from competition (including the Commonwealth Games), due in large part to a lack of sufficient funding to train properly. We spoke with Lori-Ann to find out how her year off is going, and when (and whether) we can expect to see her back on the track.
Canadian Cyclist - So what are you working on right now? When we were setting this (interview) up you said you had a class - what are studying?
CC - What is this company?
LAM - It is called Pure Momentum and it is a number of things. It's mainly a hub for women speakers; right now there is nothing else like it. I'm gathering together a group of incredible Canadian women to tell their stories. It will include women in nontraditional trades, business, sports, whatever field.
CC -Pure Momentum is running now?
LAM - Yes, we are up and running. I have one Ironwomen, and four others starting in the next two to three weeks.
CC - Why start a company, is this part of taking the year off from competition?
LAM - It's part and parcel of taking the year off. Shimano Canada is the only sponsor I've had since coming home from the Olympics. And I was let go by the law firm I worked for (Lori-Ann was a legal assistant at an Edmonton law firm for many years). They expected me to go back to my old job, and still be able to train, do speaking engagements and everything else -I would have needed to be Lois Lane! I started thinking about what am I going to do when I retire? There's a long time after you stop competing and you need to support yourself.
I had to look for sponsorship as well, because it is a pretty short window to the next Olympics. And I wanted to also begin to 'pay it forward' by speaking at schools, encouraging kids.
CC - It is hard to believe that after winning a gold medal, one of Canada's three gold medals you had only one sponsor? What about Look (bicycles)?
LAM - Look? I've had no contact, no conversations with them; they are a national team sponsor sure, but I haven't spoken with them. I did have a deal with some (local) car dealerships, but I lost it because the COC (Canadian Olympic Committee) said that it was a conflict with (their) Daimler-Chrysler sponsorship. They (COC) told me couldn't/can't do stuff, but I still don't have any guidelines.
So, how do you end up making a living? I have no RSP's, no portfolio - how do you make ends meet as a mature athlete; I'll be 40 years old next year.
CC - What else are you up to? You're still training?
LAM - Yes, I'm training five to six days a week, still keeping ready (for competition). I'm doing a bunch of other stuff - I have two photo exhibits going on right now, you know I like to take photos. My biography is supposed to be coming out at the end of March, Key-Porter (publisher) is finishing that up now, and then I will be going on a book tour. We are still promoting the documentary that was made - One Gear No Brakes. Plus I'm doing a few night school courses.
With my speaking, I am also working with two foundations - Kids Cancer Care of Alberta and Sprockids, and I donate 5% of my speaking funds to them. With Sprockids it's pretty cool, we are doing a special version here in Edmonton, the Lori-Ann Muenzer Cycling Program. It is for kids 9 to 13 years old and will run May to August.
CC - What's it like when you do a program like that, when you meet the kids?
LAM - There's usually a lot of excitement. I try to spend a lot of time with them and try to inspire them. It is important to share the hurdles, the obstacles and challenges that you have to go through if you want to go to the Olympics. I try to give them the stuff that the books don't explain.
CC - So what's it like, missing the World Cups, the Worlds, the preparation for Commonwealth Games?
LAM - It's different. Now I get on my bike and ride it for pleasure. It's been interesting to wait for the results to come out on the internet!
I'm really welcoming the break right now. When you are racing and training there are elements of fun that have to be on hold, and I'm enjoying the opportunities that I have right now. I'm just sorry that I won't be (in Melbourne) to give Anna and Kerrie (Meares - Australian sprinters) some competition!
I'm going out on my mountain bike, my school courses and photography, and I'm hoping to take a trip on my motorbike. All of this helps to bring back the fun and the clarity. This is the perfect year to take off, and then get back into it for the two years leading up to Beijing.
CC - You are still planning on competing at Beijing in 2008?
LAM - So far so good. I'm taking a step back this year to make sure everything, all the support, is in place - I can't be borrowing wheels from the French and the Australians again!
We need a program like Quebec (Quebec has a program to match sponsors up with athletes). I need partners to train with. Here (in Canada) we end up doing twice as much work as any other country, especially with no covered velodrome. I've done everything solo, two Olympics solo - you have to be stubborn or off your rocker.
For 2008 it has to be the complete picture this time. The support, the facilities, the partners. There is no decision until the end of the summer, but then I will say what I am going to do.
CC - So does this mean that without 'the package' you may not come back?
LAM - There is no decision yet, and I'm planning on being in Beijing, but not without the full package, no, I won't be doing it.