'Loss of funding' costs Burch
Roy-Allan Burch’s serious knee injuries were well documented, but the two-time Olympian says that a loss of funding was a key reason for his decision to retire from swimming.
Burch, 31, announced his retirement this month, citing the patella tendon injuries he suffered in March 2015 — which left him in a wheelchair — as one of the reasons.
He made a determined comeback from the injury and narrowly failed to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in the 50 metres freestyle last summer. Burch, who had already qualified for the World Championships in Budapest and Balatonfured, also said that a loss of sponsorship after the injury had influenced his decision.
“All my funding through the Bermuda Olympic Association and the Bermuda Amateur Swimming Association was eliminated over the last three months, making it impossible to train at a respectable level,” Burch said. “I was not able to secure a new agreement with Digicel after they decided they only wanted to work with local athletes. I was no longer sure that the changes I was working towards for swimming in Bermuda were happening.
“I may not have had enough local presence to help translate the message to Bermudians about what’s possible in the sport for them. It’s also difficult to find a role outside of the sport without local presence.
“With the loss of funding I could no longer push my body to a significant threshold without the proper care. I’ve fully recovered from my injury but my body requires a fair amount of costly care.
“I could not give the best of myself to performance without strong support.”
Burch is now looking at new opportunities in South Carolina, where he lives with his family.
“They are business opportunities, motivational speaking appearances, college recruiting consulting and my continued coaching with Lake Norman Charter School,” he said.
“It no longer felt like my presence in the sport for Bermuda was needed or wanted. I had little to no communication with the associations these past few months so it gave me an opportunity to contemplate deeply on my career and what it means to my life moving forward.
“Although I had already qualified for World Championships, I did not feel I would represent myself and Bermuda very well. Leaving the sport now gives the next generation an opportunity to climb the ladder and hit each stepping stone along the way.”
Burch was hoping to continue competing for another year, but he is now looking forward to his new ventures in Charlotte. He said he has no regrets.
“I had hoped to be able to continue through Commonwealth Games in 2018, but I could no longer put myself through some of these circumstances at the age of 31,” he said.
“I have come into some unique working opportunities here in Charlotte and leaving the sport as a competitor allows me to jump in with both feet into these projects.
“Also more companies have been asking for me to attend their events and tell my story as motivation and inspiration for their workers. Swimming has been most gracious to me but it has also been unforgiving.”
Burch added: “I’ve put myself through over 15 years of intense training and committed to goals much larger than myself to see a progression in the sport of swimming.
“I achieved many of my dreams with only few athletic goals left on the table.
“I trained with many of the greatest swimmers of my time and witnessed history time and time again.
“Many of us do not chase our dreams and I’m fortunate enough to have had that opportunity to chase mine. It did not come without immense struggle and constant searching but I believe that to be the reason for it all.”