Before the Olympics, Adam Rippon was broke and living in his coach's basement

Adam Rippon celebrates after competing on day three of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games
Maddie Meyer | Getty Images

U.S. figure skater Adam Rippon made a splash in his Olympic debut, quickly becoming a fan favorite and even landing a spot on the podium during week one of the Games.

But just a few years ago, the Olympic medalist was struggling to make ends meet, and resorted to swiping apples from his gym to save money.

As he told CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin on Squawk Box: "Six years ago, I had no money to my name. I was living in my coach's basement. I just leased a car and I got a letter in the mail saying that my credit was so bad that they needed to take the car back.

"My coach co-signed on the lease so that I could keep the car and he said: 'I trust you. And I trust that you're going to work hard.'"

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The 28-year-old, who became the oldest U.S. figure-skating Olympic rookie since 1936, did just that. After missing out on the 2010 and 2014 Winter Games, his hard work not only qualified him for Pyeongchang, but it landed him on the podium. His performance in the team event last week helped the United States claim a bronze medal.

Rippon isn't the only Olympian who has felt stretched thin financially. A handful of Olympic athletes rely on part-time jobs or crowdfunding to cover costs. As NerdWallet reports, two-time Olympic cross-country skier Sadie Bjornsen worked as a nanny early in her skiing career, and freestyle skier Jaelin Kauf has supplemented her income by cleaning houses and bussing restaurant tables.

While local sponsors may support the underdogs and athletes who haven't medaled, the biggest endorsement deals typically just go to the top one or two competitors in each sport — headliners like Shaun White and Lindsey Vonn.

As Rippon told CNBC, he came into the Winter Games without any major sponsors. When Ross Sorkin asked if he had any favorite companies or sponsors he had his eye on, Rippon responded: "I love money."

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Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal owns NBC Sports and NBC Olympics. NBC Olympics is the U.S. broadcast rights holder to all Summer and Winter Games through the year 2032.

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