Three part-time jobs to get to the Winter Olympics and then quit
Ski jumping has been a Winter Olympics sport since 1924, but only as a men discipline. First women’s event was held only at the 2014 Olympics after a group of fifteen competitive female ski jumpers filed a lawsuit against the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. One of this plaintiffs was also Abby Ringquist, a 29-year-old former U.S. ski jumper, who decided to retire after her Olympic debut in 2018.
Closing her athletic career in Pyeongchang was a bitter-sweet decision. Abby managed to obtain 29th position but decided not to compete through the rest of the sport’s season, because of the financial toll this sport brought. “I don’t have it in me to keep financing myself to the next Games,” she said. “Financially, it’s a huge burden.”
For Abby, being a ski jumper meant working three part-time jobs to cover all the costs of training and competing, including coaching young athletes and waiting tables at a local restaurant on the weekend. Her family mainly subsided off her husband’s income, since all she earned went for her sports career.
Ski jumping is more popular in some countries that the other, which doesn’t result only in final paychecks but also in expenses. In the U.S., for example, athletes must pool their equipment requests and place orders together, according to USA Nordic, since retail shops don’t sell it. A new set of equipment can cost some $1,800, with the helmet alone being around $195. Here are also funds for coaching, travelling to tournaments, using ski jumping facilities, and maintaining their equipment. And moreover, ski jumpers have to pay for their own insurance, which can be very high, given the risk the sport brings.
In comparing to some other Olympic sports, ski jumping also doesn’t usually bring huge salaries. Severin Freund, World (2015) and Olympic (2014) champion ski jumper from Germany, reported that he earned $182,000 in prize money during the 2015-2016 season, in which he managed to score second overall in the World Cup. With sponsorship deals, he earns roughly $620,000 a year before tax, which may seem like a decent paycheck, but is negligibly small in comparing what many other athletes earn. Not to mention Severin is one of the sport’s top competitors, so less successful athletes, especially women, earn considerably less.
As Severin stated for ISPO, financial rewards are not his priority and he would never switch places with a football star. “The experience is more important to me than the money. Money as such is important to me only in the sense that it allows me to pursue my sport as professionally as I am currently able to do.” We bet this is the mantra of most athletes, although is sad some have to quit right before the peak of their career, because of poor financial resources. Maybe if Abby could use the help of SportyCo back then, she would obtain even better results and would continue to prepare for the next Winter Olympics.