It’s easy to talk about the sacrifices that athletes and their families make in hopes of making it to the medal stand, but I never thought much about the amount of money that goes into such an experience. Turns out, it’s quite a bit.
Parents of gymnasts, for one, can expect to fork over upward of $1,000 a month to training facilities to get their child in Olympic shape. Travel costs force that total to skyrocket. Leotards and warm-up suits can run $300 to $500 for a complete set. There are entry fees for each meet and competition. When a gymnast is chosen for the U.S. national team and begins traveling internationally, USA Gymnastics begins picking up the cost of training and travel for the gymnast and his or her coach, but any family member who jet-sets with them does so on his or her own dime.
Of course, only gymnasts training at what’s called the “elite” level rack up that kind of bill. Then again, the most promising athletes begin training at that level when they’re 12 or 13 years old, says Karla Grimes, the general manager at the Gage Center training facility in Missouri. That means six years, at least, of 30-hour gym days and, at Gage, $600-a-month training costs.
Eye-popping expenses are par for the course for nearly every Olympic sport. Membership costs at an elite swim club can run $1,500 to $3,000 annually, says Tom Himes, who coached a young Michael Phelps at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club. Equipment can cost $500 each year. Those slick Speedo Fastskin3 swim trunks Phelps wears? They retail for $395.
The easy answer might be for America to foot the bill for its Olympic athletes’ training, like China does. But as the article points out, that’s not without its own problems.