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Why Are Some American Olympians Homeless?

Updated on February 12, 2014
Womens Snowboard Boardercross Finals, March 2010.
Womens Snowboard Boardercross Finals, March 2010. | Source

Pay To Play or Go Home

In this advanced year of human history, I hope that the global public, all the astronauts in space, and all the ships at sea know that training for and entering the Olympic Games is not free.

Sporting events entry fees have stymied many a sports enthusiast who did not know they had to pay to enter a competition, from cheerleading and martial arts to motocross, the Kentucky Derby, the Iditarod, and the Olympics. Competition is expensive in time and money.

In Central Ohio, high schools began charging high fees to participate in sports, music and art programs in the late 2000s. Some middle schools followed this trend. Some children are home-schooled, because they cannot afford all the school fees and supply requirement

Some Olympians are homeless.

Sochi and Caucasus Mountains to the North, hoe of the 2014 skiing and snowboarding events.
Sochi and Caucasus Mountains to the North, hoe of the 2014 skiing and snowboarding events. | Source
Follow Justin on Facebook.
Follow Justin on Facebook. | Source

Changing Snow Patterns

Justin is worried now about the inconsistent and growing lack of snow in the Colorado mountains where he trains.

Snow and ice packed Columbus, Ohio and Atlanta, Georgia during February 2014, while it reduced in Colorado. He cannot train in city streets. Artificial snow may be the answer.

Reference essay in the Denver Post.

The USA Snowboard and Freeski Association doesn't finance alpine snowboarding, and there is only one position available for men [on 2014 Olympics US team]. Reference at Men's Journal.

Go Away; You're too Old

A men's snowboarder entrant at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics is ranked 6th leading snowboarder in the world. He could not afford a home for about four months in the summer of 2013, because chose training in Colorado over having a home.

Since Summer 3013, Justin often camps in his SUV and a tent. Snowboarding is that important to him. Camping can make one stronger as well - I know from years of winter and summer Taekwondo camps for learning and instructing.

Now, Justin feels that living with less has taught him about conservation and sustainability. He actually enjoys living in his truck and a tent.

At age 33, he has medaled in world class competitions and has lived in his neatly packed SUV. He is dead serious about his sport, which he sees as work and pleasure. He recently won the Silver Medal in the Parallel Slalom event at the 2013 FIS Snowboarding World Championships.

Justin Reiter tried a crowd funding site called Rally Me to help raise the cash to travel to Sochi and enter the games, but as of this writing, he amassed less than half of the $25,000 required for Sochi and related training fees. However, he was able to travel to Sochi to compete in one event: Men's Alpine Snowboarding: Men's Parallel Slalom and Men's Giant Parallel Slalom scheduled for the second half of the 2014 Games.

I learned from Rally Me that Justin must pay all his own travel and living expenses to Sochi as well as his coaching fees in Colorado, where he trains hard in Half Pipe, Slopestyle, Boarder Cross, and Racing. He has no large corporate sponsors, but mostly individual donors, because he is too old in marketing eyes - except for one helmet company, so his head is safe..

If any business ever begins to place importance on the skills and vitality of older people from 30 - 100 years of age, that business will have more revenue than it can handle.

I remember at age 24 being told in an interview I was too old for a restaurant manager job - what sheer nonsense! I said so and was hired. Not so with Justin Reiter and sponsors, except for his headgear.

Chair lift to a ski slope.
Chair lift to a ski slope. | Source

Reader Comments

On Fox Sports, a reader with screen name "cr1980" posted about Keri and others like her:

"...if Keri wasn't in the news for this, 99% of Americans wouldn't have known she was there. They [sponsors] would get no economic return the way they would get for the colorful personality of Shaun White, or the amazement of a 15 year old, or the sex appeal of a really attractive athlete."

In my opinion, this speaks to the speed at which Keri should have approached crowd funding long before Sochi came up. However, it is a disgrace for US Snowboarding and Skiing (which athletes must join at a cost) and the American Olympics Committee to allow a qualified US Olympian to attend the Games looking like the Scarecrow of Oz. Still, she's happy just to be there.

I wonder how many loans she took out?

Woman Without Olympic Clothing Or Gear

Other female snowboarders and skiers are as old or older than Keri Herman and have corporate sponsors, but at age 31, this America slopestyle skier has been told she is too old for sponsors to support her in going to Sochi. She is also too old to get an agent, she has heard frequently.

Keri, like Justin Reiter, is a world class athlete with a case of medals at home (in Justin's case, likely in his truck). Therefore, her clothing and gear are a hodgepodge of rummage sale-like items and borrowed things. Sick to her stomach with too many emotions flooding at once, she finished 10th in the finals of Women's Slopestyle Skiing, a new event for 2014. She had won Gold in the World Cup at Breckenridge in January 2014, Copper Mountain in January 2013 and in Argentina in 2012.

Still, Herman was happy to have competed, even if the clothing did not fit correctly - or match - and her boots were broken, as of old. Apparently, she has never had good boots.

Incredibly, some sources list sponsors for her, in opposition to a news report. These are Buff, Jiberish, and Discrete, Breckenridge Resort, Monster Energy, and Scott USA. None of them helped her to Sochi.

The news says she works two jobs to support herself - one as a sales clerk in a sporting goods store and the other as a waitress i a restaurant. She holds a BS in Finance and Marketing, though. However, time off for competing disallows her from holding a higher-paying job to match her degree.

Keri needs a job at Home Depot, which works Olympians 20 hours and pays them for 40 hours per week. Justin Reiter worked there until he moved to Colorado to train harder.

Ski Boot.
Ski Boot. | Source


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 3 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks for all the good comments!

      American Olympians were all nearly starving until they won a medal and endorsements; until it was ruled that Olympians could be professionals in America. It seems the Russians were always supported by the govt.

      Medal winners in South Korea are certainly set for life, because the government supports them thereafter so they can train and coach others. That's one reason the South Korean Olympians, coaches, etc. are so agonized and complaining after they lose a medal spot, even to win a lower-ranked medal. Higher medal, more money, according to Korean friends of mine in sports.

    • swilliams profile image

      Emunah La Paz 3 years ago from Arizona

      Wow! This is surprising information. I thought that Olympians were set for life due to their dedication to the sport. Thank you for the article!

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 3 years ago from USA

      Thanks for bringing this to the forefront. I think I would have been done in just playing for the clothing, but when you add the training, the costs to enter, the transportation, all for just a chance to win, it is indeed a big sacrifice.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Never explored this side of the Olympic fanfare. With all the national heroism attached to the victories, it would seem appropriate that the athletes get national support. Still, we must admire the loyalty and perseverance of those who struggle this hard to participate. Thank you for this information.

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 3 years ago from Western NC

      This is incredibly interesting. I never thought about Olympians who were homeless, but this is a reality that hits close to home on many levels: you just never know who you meet will be having financial difficulties. Voted up and sharing this.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      That is just the life of a circuit competitor. When I did it I would have laughed at having a home. Why? If you are hanging out in one place that long during the season you are not competing. And I never met (other than rich from family types) a competitor that did not coach or teach their specialty for at least half a day and train another 8.

      It also amazes me that somehow they apparently have lost the notion that Alpine competition is a Team Sport with individual competition and not an individual sport.

      Thanks for the eye opener into modern athletes.

    • DonnaCaprio profile image

      Donna Caprio Quinlan 3 years ago from Newburyport, MA

      Thanks for bringing the financial aspects of the Olympics to the forefront. I commend Kerri and Justin for their determination and desire as well as their athletic ability.