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Volume 25 No. 66
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Supporting Olympians Falls Increasingly To Personal Backers

Street is part of investor Tony Pritzker's effort to help fund current top U.S. skiers

Spiraling Olympic training costs have "led athletes to seek funding from all kinds of sources," a need that is "increasingly being met by deep-pocketed individuals who’ve made supporting Olympians into a sort of charitable hobby," according to Devon Pendleton of BLOOMBERG NEWS. Investor Tony Pritzker "began funding top skiers through the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Foundation more than a decade ago, after he became casually acquainted with a few of its executives." Prtizker every February now "organizes an informal gathering of a couple of dozen friends he calls 'the Icemen.'” Each "chips in $10,000 for U.S. Ski & Snowboard and spends the day skiing with former Olympians such as Picabo Street and Phil Mahre." Private donors are "particularly crucial in the U.S., whose Olympic teams receive no government dollars." USSA "receives almost as much from individuals donors as it does from corporate sponsors." To court contributors, the foundation "hosts black-tie galas and offers coveted perks in exchange for donations" Pendleton noted moneyed donors are also "particularly important to competitors in more obscure sports that attract few corporate sponsors" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 2/15). 

TIME TO TAKE ADVANTAGE: ESPN’s Julie Foudy said many successful Olympic athletes "realize there is a small window for them to gain some notoriety and popularity, and they want to capitalize on that." However, they also "have to balance it ... if they are coming back to do more competition.” U.S. snowboarder Red Gerard "hustled home" to L.A. after winning Gold in the men's slopestyle to make several media appearances before returning to Pyeongchang to compete in Big Air next week. Fellow Gold Medal-wining snowboarder Jamie Anderson also "was considering going back" to L.A. to "capitalize on the window" (“Golic & Wingo,” ESPN Radio, 2/15).