- After world-class success, Jenifera Gērman could be provided with more funding in the Latvian Olympic team.
- Mountain skiing is an expensive sport – even the maximum state support would not cover even half of the expenses.
- High places in World Cup competitions help athletes to improve their financial situation with prize money.
- The success of the best athletes increases the financial leverage of the Latvian Skiing Federation.
- The creation of a separate Sports Fund to support talented athletes is stuck in the corridors of the ministry.
At the beginning of the season, Gērmane was included in the Silver team of the Latvian Olympic Team (LOV), which provides 20,000 euros in funding for the season. The general secretary of the Latvian Skiing Federation (LSF) Agris Raugulis told Latvian Television (LTV) that after Gērmanes’ bright results, the LSF reacted quickly and asked the Latvian Olympic Committee (LOC) to transfer the athlete to the Gold team already this season.
“So, hopefully, this will be an immediate support. It’s like a decision in the LOK executive committee [par Ģērmani] is accepted. We haven’t received the final answer yet, but hopefully it will be successful,” said Raugulis.
LOK general secretary Kārlis Lejnieks told LTV that he cannot yet confirm the inclusion of Gērmanes in LOV Zelta until the Olympic Committee has received state funding for 2024. By joining Zeltas, Đermane’s funding would double this season and amount to 40,000 euros.
From a young age, Germane spent winters in Austria, which required large investments, which were mainly covered by the athlete’s family.
The information gathered by LTV shows that up to the age of 16, the training of a Germane-level alpine skier costs approximately 3,000-3,500 euros per month, but later the monthly expenses double as a minimum. The mountain skier’s mother, Ulla Gērmane, promises to give an in-depth interview after the season.
Latvijas Televīzisia leafed through the minutes of LSF’s board meetings of the last years – the information found in them shows that the federation has not discussed providing individual support to Ģermane in the board meetings. Raugulis also confirms this, explaining that athletes are not individually supported, but the best are included in the national teams, and the federation organizes training camps for them. Raugulis remembers that even a couple of years ago, LOV’s support for Đermana was very minimal compared to the season’s expenses.
“Two years in a row – 2019/2020 and 2020/2021 [gada sezonā] – she had [LOV atbalsts] 2000 euros. With the money she needed in those seasons… I remember the estimate for the season was 90,000 euros,” Raugulis said. “When she found out that she could get 2,000 euros in financing from LOV, she almost wanted to give up.”
If Gërmani is transferred to the LOV Zelts lineup, her support will have increased twentyfold in the last couple of years. However, even with 40,000 euros per season, it would not be possible to cover even half of all expenses.
“[Pasaules kausa sacensībās] In Slovakia, in Jasna, a situation arose that she [Ģērmanei] she had to make her own skis. This is not normal for an athlete of this level,” admitted Raugulis. “Thus, it is clear that a professional person must be found, who is paid a certain amount in salary, plus provide him with all business trips and outings. It takes quite a lot of money. It is currently being worked on.”
Đermane earned 11,000 euros in cash prizes from the World Cup organizers this season. She received 4,000 euros for each of the two 8th places. Đermane has not competed for a full season and currently participates in only one discipline, so in the future the opportunities to support herself with prize funds will be greater. In the women’s competition, the eight best athletes have already managed to earn over one hundred thousand euros this season, while the leader of the ranking, Mikaela Shifrin, has already exceeded the threshold of half a million.
Along with Đermane, cross-country skier Patricija Eidukas also broke into the world elite. She also shows unprecedented success in a sport in which Latvians have not been particularly competitive until then.
The growth of results has also benefited LSF, which has entered the circle of 15 priority sports federations, and therefore will receive less than 60 thousand euros more state funding than last year.
“It must be said that these are such super talents. At the same time, some talents appear from time to time – the question is how to keep them,” Raugulis said. “The same [Lelde] Gasun or [Miks] Fisherman may not have had that level of talent, but they could have achieved a lot with better support.”
Due to geographical specificity, Latvia will probably never be a country that regularly produces world-class mountain and cross-country skiers. However, the ability to adequately support talent that still has a long way to adult competition is currently limited.
The creation of a special Sports Fund is mentioned as a possible solution in cases where talents in expensive individual sports appear in Latvia. Similar to the related cultural sector, there is the State Cultural Capital Fund. Its funding is allocated by the jury’s decision to various cultural initiatives that are not found in the state’s basic budget. The establishment of a Sports Fund in Latvia has been discussed for several years, but currently the issue is stuck in the corridors of the Ministry of Education and Science.