It ain't easy being an Olympian, we all know that. The sacrifice, the time, the long hours away from family and friends, working to perfect their sport. Winning a Gold Medal can mean millions, but working towards that goal can mean years of living on couches and empty bank accounts.
Jenna Shoemaker has reached a crossroads. Despite being one of the most accomplished female triathletes in the United States, she is quickly running out of funding and now has to face the bitter truth that her Olympic dream may come to an end because of lack of cash.
Her coach told her to get a job and save some money, but being an unemployed triathlete in Boulder is like being an unemployed actress in L.A, not all that unique.
A Harvard graduate, Shoemaker recently posted a comment on her Facebook page about having to become a stripper to raise cash, if you have ever seen Jenna, she would do well and the post was a joke. The hard truth is that she and many like her are struggling to make ends meet as they chase the Olympic dream.
"I was advised to get a job this fall so that come January I will be able to train full time without worrying about money. However, getting a full time job and working my training around that job seems very counter productive to me. It is too many steps in the wrong direction and I know I can't afford to be working while my competitors around the world are training full time." Says Shoemaker.
In a world where third string quarterback and convicted felon Michael Vick can make more for riding the bench than Jenna and her brother(Jarrod Shoemaker) can make in a year, combined. It's a horrible to think that her Facebook page joke of taking it all off could become a reality. American High Jumper Amy Acuff , Amanda Beard, Gabrielle Reese, Katarina Witt, all posed for Playboy and several other nude layouts and made great money doing it.
While it's fantastic that they are celebrating the female form, putting some money in the bank and providing teenage boys with a special distraction, it probably wasn't on their pre. or post Olympic to do lists. Something Shoemaker would never do. I had to ask.
"I don't think there's anything wrong with it, but it's not my style. Somethings need to be left to the imagination." Says Jenna about nudity, nude scenes etc.
Trust me, I for one would love to see Shoemaker in Playboy, or working a pole, but under her own terms, not because she is flat broke and without hope. Is that the message we want to send to our future female Olympic athletes, "train hard, sacrifice and learn how to pick up a dollar with you hoo ha!.
Part of the problem is the Olympics itself. A source that chooses to remain nameless at State Farm, former sponsor of the Olympic Basketball Team told me "the Olympics was sponsored by All State, we sponsored the mens basketball team, but several weeks before and several weeks after we had to go "black" and weren't able to mention it, or get in trouble with the IOC, they make it very hard."
Sponsorships for "fringe" sports aren't like a Nascar sponsorship, these are "fringe companies with tiny budgets that usually give up a free bike, a few entry fees and 5-10 thousand dollars to their athletes, the rest is up to them.
Shoemaker isn't giving up and is selling the opportunity to hangout with her and have some one on one time with a world class athlete on Ebay! You can have dinner with her and help keep Jenna off the pole and headed towards the podium. Despite needing the money, part of the winning bid will go to a charity. To bid on Jenna click here.
"By auctioning off the dinner, I'm hopefully giving a fan or
follower of the sport a chance to get to spend some quality time with
me that they otherwise would probably not get the opportunity to have.
I'm always really appreciative of all of the people who follow my
career and support triathlon, so to be honest, I am excited to get a
chance to sit down and chat with them. I guess I'm hoping it can be a
"win-win" for everyone." Says Jenna.
As for getting behind the athletes themselves, companies like Home
Depot have programs designed to help. State Farm isn't exactly running
to the table, but they are looking for new ways to keep our athletes
clothed and competing.
Our State Farm executive tells us. "We care about the Olympics,
national spirit and pride in our country. The problem dealing with the
Olympic brand is a sticking point, but we want to make sure that our
athletes are able to represent our country to the best of their
ability, we are proud of them and want to be there for them. How do we keep
people engaged for a time frame longer than the Olympics, how do we
deal with the Olympics, these are the big questions?"
Jenna and her fellow athletes aren't giving up either, they are
Olympians, fighting for what they love is a part of their make up.
"Sometimes you have to think outside of the box a bit and try something
different. It'll be great if it works out, and if not, it'll be
something hilarious I can look back on. I guess it just shows how
committed I am to making the Olympic team. Being able to continue to
train and race full time so I can do the best job possible in the lead
up to qualification for London 2012 means everything to me, so if I
have to keep cooking up creative ways to help get me there, then I
will. I don't want to look back in 3 years and wonder if things could
have been different."