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The cost of becoming an Olympic fencer

A 38-years old American fencer Maya Lawrence took up the sport as a high school sophomore in Teaneck, New Jersey, continuing through her years at Princeton University and beyond. A member of Princeton’s fencing team, she was selected as an All-American and earned Ivy League honours during all four years of her attendance there. But her best career achievement was winning bronze as a part of the US Olympic Team in 2012.

Competing at the Olympic Games was Maya’s biggest dream. Before she managed to make it to 2012 Games in London, she competed in World Cups and the Pan American Games. She took gold in 2012 Pan Games in a team and individual competitions, as well as gold in December North American Cup the same year. She missed qualifying for the Games two times before, so finally making it the third time was a big reward for almost 16 years of sacrifice on the part of her family and Maya alone, both of time and money. At that time, she was 32 years old.

Fencing is a precise sport that takes a long time to master. Athletes often train from 10-15 years, so costs can really add up. It’s, however, not one of the most expensive sports to train, but like other sports, it can reach very high costs when athletes start to travel to other states to compete at the national level. On the youth level, fencing equipment and practice time weren’t terribly expensive, but four to five trips per year to big competitions cost Maya and her family thousands of dollars. “I’m from Teaneck, a middle-class town,” she explained. “It did affect my parents. Once I decided I wanted to go to competitions, they really supported me.”

An initial fencing program usually costs between $80 – $125 per 6 to 8-week session. If you choose the equipment rental, it will run approximately $5 – $7 per session or $15 – $20 on a monthly basis. Some clubs have also open fencing sessions which cost about $10 -$20 per session if you go, and membership programs that range from $50 to $250 depending on the type.

Expenses start to add up when fencers want to develop quickly and advance to higher skill levels with individual instructions that run about $40 – $50 for 20 minutes, and $75 – $85 for 40 minutes. And as with most other sports, when starting to compete at higher levels, there are costs of travel, accommodations and entry fees for each event and coaches’ fees. A tournament is comprised of several events. Local tournament fees average $20.00 per event while National tournaments can cost $45 and up per event.

Olympians get most of their outlays for equipment, travel, camps and competitions reimbursed from the clubs that sponsor them. Younger, aspiring Olympians, however, shell out less per year, but more of it comes from their own pockets. Maya’s annual cost of training before the Games (typically four hours a day and six days a week) ran of about $20,000, and fortunately, The New York Athletic Club covered much of that. But there is one bigger financial problem facing adult Olympic hopeful like Maya, and that is lost wages. Careers go on hold, sometimes for years, and athletes have to take part-time jobs that can be quite exhausting. “I’ve stayed away from full-time jobs, it’s just too difficult to train,” explained Maya who has a master’s degree in education from Columbia in addition to her bachelor’s from Princeton. After the Games, she decided to concentrate a bit more on her career and found a job in Paris through the USOC/ADECCO Athlete Career Program.

Training any sport at a professional level takes a lot of sacrifices and cost a lot of money, that not every athlete has. Parents can’t always pony up for it and athletes have to find other resources if they want to make it. SportyCo will help a great deal here.

Sources: Forbes, Forbes, USA Fencing, All Star Activity