SPORTS

Olympic boxer says money may knock him out of Rio

05/31/2013 08:53 EDT | Updated 07/31/2013 05:12 EDT
It's been less than a year since Custio Clayton narrowly lost out on a medal at the London Olympics. Now the boxer from North Preston, Nova Scotia, says he doesn’t know if he can afford to pursue his dream of defending himself at the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Clayton, 25, is training full time. But his status as a nationally carded elite athlete pays just $1,500 a month. He said that’s nowhere near enough to support his family.

“I have two kids I gotta support,” he said. “I have bills I’ve gotta pay.”

Clayton’s story made headlines in London as many believed he was robbed of a medal.

Clayton lost his quarter-final bout to Great Britain’s Freddie Evans in a controversial decision. Boxing Canada appealed the ruling but lost. A win would have guaranteed Clayton a bronze medal.

But Clayton’s handling of the heart-breaking loss made his hometown proud. The boxer said he was just grateful for the chance to go.

“London was my biggest experience ever, it’s something that I’ll always remember,” he said. “It still feels great, no matter where I go – especially in Nova Scotia – everyone recognizes me.”

“Custio was a great role model in London,” said Ken Bagnell, the head of Canadian Sport Centre Atlantic. “To have him as part of the Canadian team in Rio certainly would be a thrill for the people around here, and hopefully for him as well.”

Tough decision

But Clayton said his goal of going to Brazil is in question. He’s had several offers to turn pro, a decision that would disqualify him from the games, but could potentially bring home big bucks.

With no sponsors to boost his income, he said it’s becoming increasingly difficult to train full time.

“You gotta make sure I pick the best offer for my family. My family is the most important part,” Clayton said.

Clayton does receive help from Canada’s Own the Podium program. Funding from that covers the cost of his coaching and other training needs.

Bagnell said Clayton’s struggles to make ends meet are common in the amateur sports world.

“It’s a particularly tough situation in boxing where you have a pro option which, in some cases, works out very favourably,” he said.

Bagnell and the team from Canadian Sport Centre Atlantic have approached several corporations on Clayton’s behalf. Bagnell is hopeful they’ll be able to come up with a plan in the next month or so that would allow Clayton to keep training full time.

In the meantime, Clayton’s successes are continuing to build. He’ll box in an international competition in Cuba this week.

He’s also nominated for Sport Nova Scotia’s athlete of the year, which will be announced Saturday.

Clayton said he’s going to continue to enjoy every moment. But he’s confident that if he can get another opportunity in an Olympic ring, the outcome will be golden.

“If my kids grow up and actually get to see a medal that their father won from the Olympics - that would be incredible.”

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