Austerity measures stemming from the debt crisis in Greece has affected the country's ability to fund its Olympic athletes, according to The New York Times.
The newspaper said stipends were chronically late, training centers had closed and their coaches weren’t being paid — a surreal situation for the birthplace of the Olympics.
As in Greece, the governments of many other countries have financed the athletic careers of their Olympic competitors. However, one country whose government has never engaged in this practice is the United States.
American athletes are responsible for funding their own Olympic training. Some private companies have set up charities to support them, and organizations like the USA Track and Field Foundationtake donations to help fund training.
There are even enterprising individuals such as runner Nick Symmonds, who sold space on his left shoulderto an advertising agency in Wisconsin. But more often than not, the athletes themselves have to get jobs like the rest of us, and somehow fit in hours of grueling training around them.
What follows is a list of American athletes who have had to train and compete in a part-time capacity while they work jobs to fund those efforts and keep the bills paid.
By Daniel Bukszpan
Posted 03 May 2012
Keeth Smart is a saber fencer who won the silver medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. He is a two-time NCAA champion, and in 2003 he became the first American to be ranked the world's top fencer.
While Smart trained for the Olympics, he also worked as a financial analyst at a telecommunications company. “My employer worked with me, kept me on the team and enabled me to have a balanced schedule that included work, training and competition,” Smart said.
T.C. Dantzler is the founder, president and CEO of TC logiQ,a software development company that performs background checks for employers. In 2008, he put those duties on hold so that he could compete as a Greco-Roman wrestler in the Olympics in Beijing. Prior to that, he held the No. 1ranking on Team USA and placed second in the Pan American championships.
Shauna Rohbock is a former Olympic bobsledder. She and her teammate Valerie Fleming were the first-place finishers at World Cup events in Calgary, Park City and Bavaria, and they finished in second place in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino. Rohbock also competed in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
At the time of the 2006 Olympics, Rohbock worked part-time in the garden departmentat a Home Depot in Park City, Utah. She earned full-time wages and benefits as part of the Olympic Jobs Opportunity Program, which the home improvement chain conducted for U.S. Olympic athletes from 1992 until the programendedin 2009.
Cat Osterman pitched for the USA Women’s Softball Team in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens and the 2008 Games in Beijing. The southpaw helped bring the team a gold medal in 2004 and a silver medal four years later.
In 2007, Osterman supplemented her income by taking a job as an assistant softball coachat DePaul University. She was off to compete in the Olympics one year later, but coaching must have agreed with her because in 2011 she took another jobas assistant coach at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas.
World champion rower Michael Blomquist was born in North Carolina and educated at Harvard and Oxford. He competed in such international races as the 2001 and 2002 World Rowing Championships, as well as numerous national contests, before retiring to work in Morgan Stanley’s London office as an analyst. It was a well-paying job that offered security and upward mobility, but he walked away from it in 2010 to compete again.
“It’s always going to be a difficult proposition to walk away from good money and from something that is comfortable and straightforward,” Blomquist toldBloomberg News. “I’m loving every day, but of course sometimes I do feel like I made a terrible decision.” Whether it was a good decision or a bad one will remain unknown until the upcoming Olympic qualifying race in Switzerland.
Tyler Jewell has been a professional snowboarder since 2000. He competed at the 2006 Winter Olympics at Torino and four years later in Vancouver and has continued to race, competing as recently as the World Cupin February.
In 2010, the athlete said that he had worked all manner of odd jobs over the years to make ends meet. “I sold sausages at a state fair in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for a bunch of years," he said.He also said that he had worked both at a golf course and on a road crew.
Nicole Joraanstad competed in the 2000 World Junior Curling Championships and the 2006 World Curling Championships. She helped her team take home the bronze medal in the first competition and the silver in the second.
Joraanstad competed in the 2010 Winter Olympics, but she had to take time off from work to do it. At the time, she worked as a human resources recruiterat a telecommunications company in Madison, Wis. At its most intense, Joraanstad said that her schedule included a full eight-hour day at work, followed by four full hours of training.
Rower Dan Walsh was an alternate in the 2004 Summer Olympics, but didn’t get a chance to compete. Four years later, his dream came true in Beijing, where he not only competed but took home a bronze medal. At the time of the 2008 Summer Olympics, he was a sales associateat Home Depot.
Outside the realm of the Olympics, linebacker Will Witherspoon of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans not only works on football fields. When he’s not crushing his opponents, he's on the fields of Shire Gate Farm,an organic farm that raises grass-fed livestock.
Witherspoon is also a student. He’s enrolled in the STAR E.M.B.A. program at the George Washington University School of Business, an executive program with an exclusive clienteleof professional athletes.