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The Real Cost of A Medal: Why Some Olympic Families Are Broke

This morning, in the midst of a “what the hell am I gonna wear today” type haze, I got caught up in a recent Daily Beast article that takes a look behind the finances it takes for a family to get their child to the Olympic medal podium. While the bronze, silver or gold medal is priceless (and for US Olympians, comes with a $10-25,000 cash prize), plenty of money was spent to get elite athletes to London this year, and it’s taken it’s toll on a few families. This week we saw it revealed that gold medalist and America’s (new) sweetheart Gabby Douglas‘ mother was coming home from London to deal with bankruptcy, and gold medal swimmer Ryan Lochte’s parents are also facing foreclosure—meaning their respective medal wins and forthcoming endorsements are right on time. But what about athletes who come home empty handed? The Daily Beast’s Kevin Fallon breaks down gymnasts for example:

“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.”

So at a minimum, families are looking at $43,200 to train their gymnastic hopeful—and that estimate is without travel, gear, and private coaching fees. Unless each parent is making a minimum of 100K a year, the financial strings in most Olympic households must be pretty tight, and if you (like most parents) will stop at nothing to see your child succeed than sacrifices beyond coupons are mandatory. But what of your other kids? It’s no wonder that during every Olympic season, we hear of families who are returning home to financial turmoil, and those are just the ones that we know of. For every medal winner, there is another Olympic family who got their child to competition, invested the same amount and now have to contend with no major endorsements or cash prizes, and a mountain of debt. And since most kids are smarter than we think, they have to have a sense at what’s at stake too. Imagine being the 17-year old essential breadwinner for your household in addition to representing 300  million people…in addition to just being a teenage girl, which is hard enough.

For more, check out the full story here.

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