The Life of an Olympian
BG: In the journey of getting to your level, when is it that you get support from the Olympic body?
BW: USOC base their grants on a tier system and that system has to do with world ranking. If you get injured and lose your rankings, you lose your supporting income. With some of my injuries, I had lost my world ranking and my institutional support with it.
But, I’ve had Nike as my main sponsor since 2004 and they’ve supported me the entire time. Without their support I probably wouldn’t have been able to do what I do. Things are looking good now. I’m healthy and, with the season I expect to have this year, I plan on gaining back the USOC funding (Currently I’m top 10 in the world).
It’s a cutthroat process and there’s not a lot of funding for athletes who aren’t top 20 in the world. All Olympic sports are a feast or famine adventure where if you’re not ranked high, you’re fundraising and asking your neighborhood for support. The athletes who are doing well continue to do well for a long time barring injury.
BG: Are there countries where that’s not an issue? Is there a system out there you’ve seen that’s actually working well?
BW: There are a lot of good models out there—most of them are government funded. When you have the government backing you, it’s a little easier to pay the bills and stay in that system. It’s frustrating because we know we have such a great country and yet we still have a hard time supporting many talented athletes. The Olympic model right now doesn’t have the government support. I’m not saying we need government support but the money dries up pretty quickly and there’s a lot of people who decide it’s time to hang it up even if it is a little premature. more