Most of us see Paralympic athletes at their brightest and best moments: standing on a podium, bursting with pride as they hear the national anthem, and with a medal draped around their necks.
But that, of course, is only part of the story. Most Paralympic athletes face tremendous financial challenges — not just to reach parity with their Olympic counterparts — but even just to meet the day-to-day expenses of training and competing.
In May, Toyota announced major news to help: nearly $5 million in stipend and sponsorship opportunities that will directly impact the lives of all eligible U.S. Paralympic athletes training to compete at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 or the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.
We chatted with Team Toyota’s Amy Purdy, two-time Paralympian and three-time medalist in snowboard and skiing, for more insight on the financial challenges and how Toyota’s new initiative will help.
Toyota Today: Amy, as you know, Toyota just made an incredible commitment to help support Paralympic athletes across the United States. What do you think of the program and how it will help the Paralympic Movement?
Amy Purdy: It’s incredible. I’ve never seen anything like this done before. The impact this is going to make for Paralympians, but also elevating the moment, is enormous. I’ve never seen another brand do this.
Toyota Today: Can you talk about the financial challenges most Paralympic athletes face? So many of us watch them compete every four years and probably assume they’re well supported.
Purdy: Having a disability is really expensive, even without competing in sports. Sometimes you need help or a guide. If you’re blind or vision-impaired, you may need someone to travel with you for support. In many cases, if a Paralympic athlete needs to go somewhere, they need to buy two tickets. If they compete in a sport, they often need two sets of equipment. Oftentimes, insurance won’t cover athletic equipment.
For me personally, I have two prosthetic legs. Insurance may cover a pair of walking legs, but not a pair of running legs. If you want to go to the gym and run on the treadmill, you may have to pay for a pair of legs to do that. Running legs may cost $30,000. That’s not something that insurance covers.
If you want to follow your dreams, how do you overcome that cost? That equipment gets even more specialized as you progress in your sport. Then there are the competition and travel costs. It adds up very quickly and makes it unattainable for so many.
So, to have this support and funding from Toyota is tremendous. Toyota really recognized a need that many other brands haven’t. And they stepped forward to meet it.
Toyota Today: You’ve reached incredible heights in the world of Paralympic sports and beyond. How has Toyota’s support throughout your career impacted your journey?
Purdy: Toyota has been a supporter and sponsor of mine for many, many years. They supported me, my dreams, and my goals before anyone was watching. This was before I did “Dancing with the Stars” or anything big in the public eye. Toyota was my partner along the way. And I’ve been honored to be a part of Toyota’s growth as they’ve evolved to this point in supporting the Paralympic Movement. Watching the company expand from not just supporting me, but to supporting every Paralympian, is really amazing.
Toyota Today: A lot of brands step up during the Olympic and Paralympic Games, but it sounds like Toyota’s support has really gone above and beyond for you.
Purdy: A lot of times, brands will step up every four years as you go into the Olympic and Paralympic Games. And oftentimes, those brands are only with you for that year. They disappear in between. The in-between times are the most important part. That’s where you’re training and working so hard to be the best you can be. For me, Toyota has been there every step of the way and made my dreams possible.
To learn more about how Toyota is supporting Team USA Paralympic athletes with stipends and sponsorship opportunities and how you can also help, click here.