Olympic Cost: Delay Could Keep Some Athletes From Competing in 2021

Funding training for another year might be too much for many athletes

According to a report from Japanese state broadcaster NHK, the target date to begin the now-2021 Tokyo Olympic Games is July 23rd … 364 days after it was supposed to begin.

Getting a start date for the Olympic Games is a good start. But the greatest athletes in the world still have to figure out something quite important to get ready.

“They don’t know when they’re going to be able to train, but at least they know they have a year to prepare,” says Melinda Harrison, a swimmer for the Canadian Olympic team at the 1984 Games who is now a certified executive coach.

The athletes have more than a year to figure out how to be peaking at the perfect time. They’re used to doing that so, aside from the constant potential for injury, the physical aspect of another year of training likely won’t be an issue. But this delay could cause another major problem.

“Very few athletes make money from the Olympics. I mean, only your superstars,” says Harrison. “There are even gold medalists in not the prime sports that never make a dime or make very little money. So I think for most athletes the bigger concern is do I have the money to continue to prepare over the next year?”

Unlike sporting entities in many other countries the United States Olympic Committee does not receive government funds. Athletes on Team America are funded by private donations or out of their own pockets. Unless you’re talking about a star like Simone Biles or Caeleb Dressel, athletes who win multiple gold medals in showcase sports like gymnastics or swimming, the majority of Olympians are doing this for the love of competition.

“That goes right across the board when you’re talking about the “high potentials.” They haven’t proven themselves but they’re in the running,” says Harrison.

74 athletes in 14 sports had already qualified for Team USA and they will get to keep their spots on the team in 2021. They will likely receive some kind of funding from the USOC to continue training. But for thousands of athletes who were gearing up for trials and the chance to earn a spot on the team, this could be a serious financial hardship.

“The Olympic trials is a very exciting event and in some cases it’s harder to make the final at an Olympic trials than it is at an Olympic Games,” says Harrison. “So that particular athlete is never going to get funded by the U.S. Olympic Committee unless they show this immense potential over the next year. They’re going to need to self-fund.”

There is a Team USA Fund that takes donations from everyday Americans. Harrison hopes a portion from that pool can be given to the athletes still training for a spot on the team.

 “It’s expensive to be a high-performance athlete.”

But the payoff, a chance to win Olympic gold, for many is worth the expense.

You can learn more about Team USA Fund and how to help aspiring United States Olympians here:


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