Olympians For Hire

Home Depot, the company that offered jobs and benefits to U.S. Olympians, will discontinue that program after deciding not to renew its U.S. Olympic Committee sponsorship.

The big-box home store announced last week it will no longer be a USOC sponsor. The last four-year deal was worth between $15 million and $20 million.

The most notable part of the Home Depot sponsorship was its Olympic Job Opportunity Program, which allowed Olympic athletes to work flexible hours and receive full-time benefits.

Many athletes living and training at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista have taken advantage of the Home Depot program. Among them, several members of  the 2008 U.S. Women's Field Hockey Team. As midfield defender Carrie Lingo explains, the jobs with Home Depot were an important part of living in San Diego.

"Right now we get a stipend from U.S. Field Hockey, which helps pay for some of the basics, but really in order to afford housing in San Diego and to just have that little extra weekend and go out to dinner here and there, you do need the extra money," said Lingo.

With practice five days a week, and travel requirements, the women need an extra flexible employer.

"Home Depot was awesome because we were part time, worked part time hours, but got paid full time on a salary," said teammate Kayla Bashor. After touring with the team for weeks, Bashor would return to her work at Home Depot and be given the opportunity to make up any hours she missed over time.

There are currently 86 athletes in the program. Niemi said they will all be given opportunities to continue their employment when the program officially ends March 2.

"The economy is in chaos right now, but out of chaos comes change, and out of change comes opportunity, so I feel like I'm in a great place," said teammate Rachel Dawson.

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