We received the following email from Jack Wickens (and received permission to publish it) which explains why David Oliver got $5,000 from the USATF Foundation. We're glad to know that a guy running sub 13 in the hurdles doesn't need charity to survive, and it's good to know the USATF Foundation was responsible for helping him staying the sport. Email starts below:
First, let me add to the chorus of applause for Letsrun.com. Clearly a high quality site for news and discussion about our sport is a key ingredient in our quest to lift our sport to a much higher level of fan engagement and sponsorship. Thanks!
The work of the USATF Foundation may be one of the best kept secrets in our sport. The USATF Foundation is independent of the USATF (though we seek alignment) as a separate legal/charity entity with our own board and governance. We exist due to the generosity and passion of our terrific board, as well as other individual and road race donors (e.g. NYRR's support to the Distance Project).
We are playing a role in the elite/professional part of our sport that most people aggressively agree with - - provide support to "up & coming" athletes who have not yet won substantial sponsorship/financial support. We do this through individual grants to athletes (via a thorough application process that evaluates performance, financial status, and character references) and through grants to group training centers (via the "Distance Project").
The USATF Foundation also is taking a lead role in enhancing the professional experience of top T&F athletes....e.g. creating a career mentoring program, an expanded job internship program, and developing a customized/funded health insurance program. Note that, given the considerable corporate governance know-how of our board members, we have also offered consultative help to the USOC and USATF as they navigate the organizational restructuring process.
To address the David Oliver question. The USATF Foundation stepped up to support David at a pivotal time in his athletic career. He applied for a grant in 2006 when he was showing great performance promise but was struggling financially. He did not yet have a contract with a shoe company. We happily provided him a grant at that time that helped him focus on fulfilling his promise....which he obviously is doing. In many ways he represents exactly what we hope to achieve - - help a talented athlete "early" in their competitive life so they can excel (competitively and financially) without our continued help.
The USATF Foundation decided to reward ALL athletes that have received individual grants from us since 2006 with a "bonus" if they made the Olympic team (regardless of their current financial position). We felt that this action visibly reinforced the mission and purpose of our elite athlete support. These athletes, in a sense, made great use of our investment in them.
David Oliver did not receive additional grants from the Foundation in '07 or '08 because he did indeed gain strong sponsorship from Nike....but we happily rewarded him with this $5,000 training-support bonus for making the Olympic team, along with eight other former Foundation grantees.
Sorry for the long note, but I thought a little background would be helpful. It would be highly valuable to the causes of the USATF Foundation (including our focus on supporting opportunities for youth) to have the support and understanding of Letsrun.com. Thank you!
- - - Jack Wickens, USATF Foundation board member