6 Reasons Why I’ll Never Be An Olympic Athlete Even If I Could. #6 Is Just Painful

The Olympics are finally here and with them the time of the year when the average person sits back and watches the world’s finest and most physically capable human beings perform.

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But if you think that the worst thing to happen to an Olympic athlete is raising a Kardashian kid, then you’re dead wrong. Athletes don’t have it easy, and they often, if not always, find themselves in difficult positions. If you want to ever be an Olympian, be ready to make countless sacrifices and learn to tolerate the emotional trauma that comes from having to make those sacrifices, because:

1. Training Costs Will Leave You (And Your Family) Broke

You probably think that representing your country at the greatest sporting event in existence comes with great, at least financial, support from the government. Wrong. Almost all athletes you’re about to see perform in Rio now had to beg and borrow money from friends and family in order to get to where they are now.

For the parents willing to support their child’s ambitions, the financial cost of training, equipment, travel, coaches, and therapy amount to a six digit number. In the U.S, athletes’ funding relies on the U.S. Olympic Committee, with its estimated annual budget of $170 million.

Okay, how about sponsor contracts? Well, a recent survey found that only the top five athletes in a particular event earned more than $15,000 a year, including the stipends, sponsorship deals and even prize money. So only the very best get to earn a luxurious amount of money, the rest do it for a pittance.

2. Doping Is A Real Issue

A surprising number of athletes have been caught on doping tests and most of them had their ridiculous excuses and claims later dismissed. In order to avoid false-positives, testing thresholds are deliberately high and many athletes can dope by micro dosing or using masking agents for certain substances, and they would still pass the doping test, all the while putting their own health on the line.

On the other hand, there are many athletes that want to stay competitive, but also want to do it in a clean and fair way. And the problem is that the latter have to spend twice as much time and energy, or risk their own health in order to stay ahead.

3. It’s Twice As Hard If You’re A Woman

At the London 2012 Olympics, U.S. female athletes brought home 58 medals, whilst male athletes brought only 45. Despite being less successful, men still got far more media coverage. An analysis of screen time concluded that women get 46,3% of media coverage.

But that’s only because 97% of coverage women get is gained from sports where females wear clothes, like tight swimsuits, that explicitly bring out certain parts of their body. The problem is that more media coverage leads to more money. But this is also problematic for some male athletes in sport events where women do get most of the coverage.

4. You’re More Of A Political Pawn Than An Athlete

-So far, you’ve spent all your, your friends’, and your family’s finances on training and equipment, you’ve passed the doping tests and now it’s time for your golden opportunity. Well, a wise man once said “Just because you don’t take an interest in politics, does not mean that politics won’t take an interest in you.”

In other words, you’re not exempt from the political situation of the country you’re representing, and there’s always some political situation. In 1980, the Moscow Olympics were boycotted, the Sochi 2014 Olympics were almost boycotted, and many people have also boycotted the 2016 Olympics in Rio (on their own account, of course).

This is extremely problematic for athletes, because they can reach their peak once in their career and most athletes train accordingly so their peak would coincide with an Olympic event. It goes without saying that the Olympics are meant to be apolitical, regardless of the situation. Though, it is understandable how an apolitical event in principle can get political, since the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 were nearly boycotted by France and Germany.

5. Your Health Will Suffer In A Myriad Of Ways

Training for the Olympics is a lot more dangerous than one might expect. From risk of brain injuries, to cardiovascular problems, to extreme diets; choosing to be an athlete is a very dangerous path to take. But, you might think it’s all worth it, and with enough time you’ll adjust to bankrupting your family, putting your health on the line, risking having no payoff, and being used for political purposes.

Let’s also say that you become one of the top 5 athletes who make more than $15,000 annually. Given that athletes only peak at a certain point in their career, after which they have to either retire (Think of Hicham el Guerrouj), or train hard as their career goes into a rapid decline; that peak better be worth the effort, but it is not, because:

6. A Terrible Retirement Awaits You

After you have had your golden moment and have now retired, get ready to be a television commentator (think of Michael Johnson – probably the greatest athlete who ever lived), or for your new job at McDonald’s. It’s tough to have other obligations on your mind when training for the Olympics, but you better have a retirement plan, because no one is going to make one for you, or provide you financial security.