Training Costs Will Leave You (And Your Parents) Broke
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You'd think that as compensation for defending their nation's honor at the Olympic Games, athletes would be entitled to, say, their face on a mountain somewhere, or at least enough money to not make a McJob seem like an attractive career prospect. Well, sorry to disappoint, but almost every athlete you're about to watch on TV had to beg, borrow, and bankrupt everyone they love for their chance at stardom.
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Unless they're one of the cool kids, of course.
Let's take the situation at home. The U.S. government provides no financial support to its athletes (of the 200+ countries that attend the games, we're one of three to not do so), which places the onus for athlete funding on the U.S. Olympics Committee. As a nonprofit with an estimated annual budget of $170 million, they can only afford to offer stipends and other benefits to a small number of athletes, most of whom will be competing in high-profile, recognizable sports. If you're an athlete who picked a less-marquee sport such as racewalking or dressage (basically horse dancing), then too bad. Don't let the hurdles bang your ass on the way out.
In a just world, this horse would be richer than Michael Jordan.
And it's not like they can rely on sponsorship deals or prize money, either. A recent survey found that only the top five athletes in events such as running, jumping, and discus throw were earning over $15K a year from their activities -- a figure which includes everything from sponsorship deals to prize money to, yes, the aforementioned stipends. To get a gold medal in money, in other words, you have to be at the very top of your game in a sport that people give a shit about all the goddamn time, not just twice a decade.