This is how much it costs to be an Olympic skier

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In addition to tuition, training, and medical bills, Merryweather has the day-to-day costs that any non-athlete might have without the day job to support it. Rent, food, travel, and training or equipment costs not covered by his sponsors add another $20,000 a year to his expenses. These usually come out of one’s own pocket, funded by cash endorsements or prize money. Merryweather says some of those costs can be covered by what’s called a headgear sponsor.

“It refers to the company or brand that you’ll see on the front of some athletes‘ helmets, just above the goggles,” she explains. “These are usually the main sponsors for each athlete, and they are usually based on money rather than equipment. These can be quite lucrative for top athletes, but for most, they provide a few thousand dollars for living and training expenses. These are sought after by the athletes themselves and are generally not associated with Team USA in any way.

Although once banned by the Olympics, these contracts are now very common and can make a big difference for athletes in successful years. Meanwhile, the years marred by injury and bad luck can be financially difficult.

And then there’s the accommodation – even the athletes going to the Center of Excellence don’t get room and board. “Utah Olympic Park recently set up a housing unit for Utah Olympic Park athletes, coaches and staff, but it’s not free,” says Merryweather. She went on to say that the high cost of housing in Park City leads many athletes to travel long distances each practice day. “Most rents in Park City are well over $1,000 a month, even for studio apartments, so housing is easily the biggest expense for American ski teams. Some athletes, myself included, find cheaper rents in Salt Lake City and commute to and from Park City to train.

Merryweather is fortunate to have the support of the US Ski Team and estimates her costs would easily exceed $100,000 without that support.

If the costs of becoming an Olympic skier seem prohibitive, there are a few tricks that can make it more accessible. I grew up in the UK where, like most countries in the world, Olympic training and competition is supported by public funds and a national lottery. This is not the case in the United States, where national governing bodies like US Ski and Snowboard must raise their own funds from sponsorships and membership fees.

During the Winter Olympics, it is not uncommon for athletes to also be members of their the armies of the nation. The British Army Tenders scholarships, support and greater indulgence with world-class athlete programming. The The US Army has a similar program— he sent nine athletes to Peking. Under the US program, athletes can train full-time with military and civilian trainers while meeting job requirements and serving in publicity and recruiting roles. These programs provide support for athletes who are just below Olympic level and absorb some of the living and training costs that come with preparing for trials.

Of course, many Olympic sports, such as biathlon and modern pentathlonwere designed to test a soldier’s abilities and so it makes sense that soldiers are always in competition.

If the Olympians are successful, they can expect a payout, although the amount varies by country. The USA pays gold medalist $37,500, while Hong Kong pays $642,000 to any athlete who steps onto the podium. For most athletes, the gains don’t justify the cost to get there. A 2011 study showed that 50% of Team USA track and field athletes who placed in the top 10 in their discipline nationally earned less than $15,000 per year. Many of them work side by side hustles as coaches or rely on subsidies to survive.

Wherever their support comes from and however much they pay out of pocket, the Olympics require a huge sacrifice. Most athletes will compete in just one game, and for many it will be the highlight of their career. They will fight by injury and miss important events in the lives of their friends and families in order to make it to the opening ceremony. But for those who step onto the podium, this moment is priceless.


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