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The price of being one of the best at an Olympic sport

For Jeremy Taiwo, a 28 years old U.S. decathlete, sports career expenses presented constant stress. To compete in this discipline, one needs different shoes for nearly every event. He has long jump shoes and high jump shoes, those for sprinting and those for distance running. He needs 3 different pairs for shot put, discus and javelin, and also special spikes for his shoes for the pole vault.

Above that, there are coaches’ fees and travel costs, weekly massage therapy, and appropriate healthy nutrition that can be quite expensive, since Jeremy must consume daily the caloric intake of several average men. With all that, money was often tight and sometimes it was hard for him to remember if all the struggle was worth it.

Jeremy’s story is the reality of many Olympic athletes. Being one of the best in the world comes at a price, and many of them have to carefully plan their finances by saving and looking for different ways to raise money on their own. A lot of times the only possibility is to take a side job, which can be challenging because of training schedules that are still their full-time occupation. Athletes bodies also need rest to regenerate and make the best out of it, and a side job, unfortunately, can’t always allow that.

In 2015 Dick’s Sporting Goods started a special program to hire Olympic athletes to work in its stores, offering a generous hourly wage and flexible schedules. Jeremy also got one of those jobs but had to cut back to once a week because of his training schedule. So if he wanted to compete at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, his best option was to launch a fundraiser.

And that’s what he did. He managed to raise $18,331, surpassing his goal of $15,000, which allowed him to focus merely on his training. Now he had a chance to accomplice his dreams that were sheltered because of major surgeries on his elbow and pubic bone before the 2012 Summer Games in London. For as long as he can remember, his sole goal in life has been to make it to the Olympic Games. He couldn’t bring himself to watch the trials while recovering, emotionally broken that he’d worked his whole life for a moment he was missing. Luckily his family and friends encouraged him to keep striving, so he pushed himself to the limit and got back on track in no time.  With all the support he’d got, he felt like 2016 could be his year.

“If there is a will, there is a way, and these people believe in my perseverance and hard work,” he said about the 152 people who had donated money in his fundraising. “There is no excuse now. I had the resources, I just had to do it and go for it.”

Jeremy finished second in the decathlon at the U.S. Olympic Trials with a personal record of 8425 points, managed to secure his place on the U.S Olympic team, and made 11th place finish later in Rio. As he stated, this was “probably the most fulfilling thing to ever happen to me athletically. It was really fulfilling because of how uncertain and unsure I was of this season going into it, and it felt fulfilling knowing everything I’d been dealing with off the track that had been affecting me – the coaching changes, finding support, being told no. Things like that. It was pretty cool.”

As said by Mark Dyreson, a Pennsylvania State University professor and expert on the Olympics, athletes nowadays do have financial concerns, but the situation is still better than several decades ago when athletes weren’t allowed to accept any outside monetary support. “Athletes from working-class backgrounds, without financial means, have always struggled, but it’s better than it was,” he said. “They do face some challenges and they make great stories during the Olympics because they are the ones we relate to, the ones who have daily struggles like we do.”

Sometimes crowdfunding is the best and only solution athletes have to pursue a career in sport and meet their dreams, especially in the early stages of their sporting path. And it’s not just about the money, it’s about the support they get from the community, which gives that extra kick and will to push themselves to the limit. We at SportyCo are especially aware of this, that’s why we created our platform that doesn’t allow just athletes to raise funds but also allows you, the community, to have something from it.

Sources: The Washington Post, Seattle Times

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