When Liz Podominick recommends sporting apparel, customers assume she knows her stuff.
The 6-foot-two discus thrower looks like an athlete.
But, rarely do they realize the retail clerk helping them inside El Cajon’s Dick’s Sporting Goods is actually one of America’s top prospects for the event in the 2016 Summer Olympics.
“They'll ask me are you an athlete? and we'll start chatting about what I'm doing and a lot of them are like what's discus?” said Podominick.
A former Division 1 college basketball player at the University of Minnesota and the state’s high school player of the year in 2003, Podominick works about 10 hours a week.
A banner with Podominick’s picture hangs inside stores across the country as part of the company’s job partnership program with Team USA which supports athletes with competitive wages while offering flexible schedules.
"People think we're professional athletes and we make a lot of money. Guess what? we're like a lot of times below the poverty line,” said Podominick.
Only a small percentage of Olympic athletes have lucrative endorsement deals.
While the top runners in Track & Field can make a comfortable living, athletes like Podomonick in the field events barely scrape by.
Most need to find a part time job to support the small amount they earn through competition prize rewards, grants, family support, and smaller sponsorship deals.
"Trying to find a job that’s flexible enough to accommodate your schedule, but then the reality of it when employers find out 'oh you're going to be gone this much', there's a lot of resistance,” said Podominick.
The job challenge often keeps talented athletes from reaching their full potential because they can earn more in the “real world”.
Podominick works nights, which typically follows a long day of training at the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center.
She says sometimes the simple task of folding clothes is a nice chance to just let her mind relax.
But whether it's throwing a disc or folding a tank-top, she brings the same work ethic to whatever is in front of her.
"I’m a little bit of a type A or perfectionist when it comes to stuff," said Podominick.
She will compete at the USA Olympic Track & Field Trials in Salem, Oregon.
The women’s discus final is scheduled for Saturday, July 2nd.