Over the last year, the advocacy group Global Athlete received responses from 491 athletes spread across six continents, about 200 of whom identified themselves as Olympians or Paralympians, and the rest of whom compete at an elite level in their country or at an international level. The responses painted one of the most thorough pictures of the long-documented reality of competing at the highest levels of Olympic sports: Hardly anyone gets rich, while the majority are poor and largely beholden to the bureaucracies that fund this diverse cross-section of what are, by and large, niche sports.
As part of the survey, athletes who said they did not consider themselves financially secure were given the chance to explain. There were 89 responses, most of which sounded similar themes:
—“Can’t train without funds but trying to get work around training is not easy and continually told if you miss sessions you don’t get selected.”
—”No stable job, living off casual work, and supported by my mum. My sport provides no money for me.”
—”Paycheck depends on how I preform at a major championships once every 2-4 years. If I do not preform well in one moment I cannot financially support myself.”