The London Olympic games came to a spectacular close last night, and those crowned the World’s Best in their respective sports proudly came home with their precious medals. But owning gold (or silver or bronze) doesn’t mean you’re wealthy; in fact, most of these medals put athletes and their families in a precarious financial position.
Gabby Douglas made our country proud as a member of the gold-medal Women’s Gymnastics team and the All-Around Individual champ. However, her mother just filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy after spending upwards of $100,000.00 on Gabby’s training. Likewise, swimmer Ryan Lochte’s parents are currently facing foreclosure on their home, and swimmer Missy Franklin’s parents are feeling the financial pinch of raising an elite teenage athlete.
Reaching the pinnacle of their sport comes with a steep price tag, and these costs are often a severe hardship for the athletes’ families. I’m sure if you asked them, the families wouldn’t trade their athlete’s success for the cost of getting them there, but these medals come with a price!
While these athletes do receive prize money with their Olympic medals and Ryan Lochte and Gabby Douglas may lock in some pretty lucrative product endorsements, this money cannot be counted on as a long-term income or a way to “cure” the financial ills of the past. Missy Franklin intends on participating in NCAA swimming after she graduates from high school next year, and in order to remain eligible, she cannot accept any money from the Olympics or for endorsement deals. All three of these athletes have their eye on the Rio games, so the training expenses will continue. Missy Franklin and Gabby Douglas may also have college tuition and costs to look forward to.
These are just three high-profile Olympians. I’m sure a look at the bank books of many, if not most, of the U.S. Olympic team would show pinched pennies and the occasional negative balance. Becoming the best comes at a price, and it isn’t easy to sneak the costs of equipment, special training and facility fees, and travel necessary for competitions into the regular monthly budget.
Financial hardships come in all shapes and sizes, and no one, not even Olympians, are immune.