How Athletes Get Funding for the Olympics

One look at an Olympic athlete, and you might think they have it all: fame, talent, and the opportunity of a lifetime. However, one thing most Olympians don’t have going for them is a lot of money.

While Michael Phelps has a net worth $55 million, most Olympic athletes struggle to pay for training and competing. The summer Olympics only happen every four years, and many athletes only get their moment in the spotlight for a few minutes. This does not adequately capture the hours and years of costly training, equipment, coach expenses, and health services, such as physiotherapy and chiropractic care.

Olympians must find funding to cover all of the costs, and past Olympic medal winners earn their funding through sponsors and endorsements. Others juggle part-time positions to fit in with their training schedule. Still others take a creative route: Nick Symmonds, a track athlete, earned over $11,000 after he auctioned his skin on eBay as temporary-tattoo canvas for sponsors. 

Help Through the Team USA Fund

The United States is one of the only countries with an Olympic Committee that is not supported through federal government support. Instead, the U.S. Olympic Committee relies on private funding. The Team USA Fund helps underwrite expenses for Olympic athletes, coaches, and more.

Reliance on Parents

Many Olympians are young, and a lot of their expenses are covered by their parents. In 2012, U.S. News & World Report reported that gymnast Gabby Douglas’ mother, Natalie Hawkins, filed for bankruptcy, listing $80,000 in debt. Swimmer, Ryan Lochte’s parents allegedly stopped paying their mortgage last year and owe over $200,000 on a Florida home. Both Olympic athletes won gold in the 2012 London Olympics, and have since received endorsement deals. However, before the fame comes, many parents support their child athletes with training and other related costs.

Funding Through Crowdfunding

American decathlete Jeremy Taiwo started a GoFundMe account to raise $15,000 to pay for equipment, shoes, training, supplements, chiropractic care, and more. People are still donating to the fund, and Taiwo raised over $53,000. GoFundMe gave the athlete and extra $10,000 on top of that amount.

Kyle Snyder, member of the 2016 Olympic Freestyle Wrestling Team, also turned to GoFundMe to cover travel expenses for his family. Snyder raised over $25,000.

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