Also, I had dreams of going to the Olympics for skiing (GS, Super-G, Downhill) but the money ran out before my talent did.
When I was a bit younger I was boarderline top-10 in the country in a sport even fewer people care about, alpine snowboarding. Finished as high as eighth in some bigger national giant slalom events with all the top guys, have raced a lot against AJ Muss who is currently the top American. Parallel giant slalom is the olympic event here which is obviously very niche, and still the talent pool is deeper than you'd imagine. Easily hundreds of fairly talented riders who train very hard come out to the top FIS events, and if you're serious about trying to make the olympic team (US only sends 1-2 per year), you have to spend SO much money and dedicate your life to it.
I am good friends with a woman who was the first woman out (last cut, however makes sense) of the 2014 Sochi team. She did not come from a particularly wealthy background. When she was 16 she started taking winters off school instead of summer to train at Steamboat. After high school she dedicated 6 years of her life to training in Austria. Mom had to take out a second mortgage on their house. She was flying all around the world competing in these hard, hard GS and Slalom events and training year round. And for what? Almost an olympic appearance that wouldn't have put her even close to the podium anyways. Absolutely zero fanfare because it's not a well known sport. Now she coaches high schoolers in Minnesota. I just don't think that is justifiable for most people.
Most Nordic skiers need years of financial backing before they can make it. It's not huge, but you need to invest at least $10-$15K a year for the better part of 8-10 years for equipment, coaching, and travel. Even to the level of getting a DI scholarship (which is no longer the preferred way to make the US ski team) will need 4-5 years of pretty good investment.And the amount they train and travel (working full time is not an option), they'll need help to cover living expenses - food, gas, housing.
My GF got a full D1 scholarship with little money and support in high school (admittedly almost 20 years ago, but things aren't that different now). She skied on crappy high school-issued skis, still made Junior Nationals. She still had only had crappy skis in college (despite some free skis from the school), which was very apparent when she could compare them to borrowed skis from a teammate (former national team member for a Euro country, multi NCAA champ) .
It's no where near the amount you quote per year for kids if you live where it's a popular sport, and high school teams might have 100 skiers. Maybe that's what you would need for support post-college, mainly to travel to races. Most of the top skiers from here learned to ski in the local muni program, which is dirt cheap. Joining one of the local clubs, maybe starting no earlier than middle school is less than $2K per year (and less than $4K for 3 family rate). Skis don't need to be new, $150/pr used maybe. My best classic race skis I got at a swap for $35 when I walked in after it closed (Fischer RCS classics with bindings, in a length and flex that would fit most men, 25 years old, but pretty much never used). None of the maybe 1,000 people that were at the swap wanted them. You really don't need a huge fleet of skis until you are fast enough that people are giving them to you. The fast local kids probably didn't travel out of state for races until they qualified for Junior Nationals in high school.
I knew a guy who made the Olympic Bobsled team when I was in the Air Force years ago. He was a very good, but not world-class sprinter (10.65 100M), who competed in track in college and on the Air Force team, and played High School football. He was fast, athletic, and strong as hell ... strongest guy pound for pound that I ever knew, and big but not huge (5'10", 170). He was an officer with the security police, so certainly not "rich".
He was recruited for his combination of speed, strength, athleticism, and size. He never pushed a sled before, but he did well at tryouts and made the US #1 sled at the olympics
I knew another guy who made the US team, but I don't remember if he went the olympics. He was a collegiate rugby player, who was also very fast and strong
Visa commercial showing Olympians remembering they want to be in the Olympics, whipping out the Visa, and arriving.
Then some figure skating dude saying in the past he didn't have money to make it to the Olympics, but now he's there.
And if Norway can sweep some XC ski race, why don't they kill it on the track, or in XC running?
Northern Hemisphere, indeed.
I can't speak for the US, but in countries/ regions like Austria, Switzerland, Northern Italy, Scandinavia etc these sports are mass sports and you don't have be be well off to pursue them. When I was in middle school, it was completely normal to go on week-long skiing trips (organized by our school), maybe paid 200EUR for it, and you could even get financial assistance if needed. Also, skiing is for example way cheaper there than in the US.
Skiing and snow boarding are definitely sports that are very expensive. Kids who compete need to get new skis/boards constantly as they grow and as equipment wears out. It is not uncommon for parents to have to fork out a couple thousand a year on gear alone for competitive kids. Then you will be out a couple thousand a year for private instruction, ski teams, and travel to competitions. If kids stay competitive into high school and are looking at skiing in college or trying to go pro, it just gets more and more expensive as you add trainers and specialized gyms, extended training stays at ski resorts, private tutors to keep them on grade level and a dedicated coach. You can easily see how the kid whose parents have a condo at Beaver Creek and have lots of frequent flier miles from work will be at a huge advantage over the kid whose parents have to drive them back and forth from Denver to Winter Park and are always on Craigslist looking for used skis or boards. The one equalizer is location and having parents who competed when they were young. Bryce Bennett grew up in Squaw Valley and his parents worked at the resort. His dad was a competitive telemark skier.
I've always wondered how easy/hard it would be to make an Olympic bobsled team. Cool running jokes aside, who the fack bobsleds? There's only a handful of places you can even do it and no great athlete would choose bobsledding of all sports either so the talent pool is probably thin as hell.
Having trained with some athletes that end up on the bobsled teams, they are some of the most powerful athletes out there. Yes some sprinters make it onto teams but top speed isn't the only requirement as you need that speed/power combo.
Funny reading these comments here that are basically comparing every sport to running on how good an athlete you are. Guess what, you don't have to be a top runner to be a great athlete. There are technical aspects, strength in other sports that runners don't have.
We had this exact same discussion some years back. Almost certain we did. I know two of the skiers on the current team and two more that just missed it and have known several that made it in the past. Most come from a fairly well to do background (trust funder parents, CEO of billion dollar company, dual income both parents earning 6 figures, totaling $350K+; one came from a more modest background, dad's an electrician mom a secretary), and the top club skiers will have a quiver of six skis, usually hand picked from the factories through places like Boulder Nordic or Caldwell Sports. A new pair will cost between $650 and $850. And to keep current they'll probably get 2 pairs a year. And to be competitive at all conditions they need a pair each of warm and cold classic and skate skis. Probably a pair of waxless Zeros for Poles are $300 to $500 (very easy to break, might need a couple pairs of those). Boots now $400 or more. Ski clubs with professional coaching $2000-$5000 a year. Travel to JN qualifiers (2-3 trips a year) including 4 nights lodging, entry fees, gas or air fare (for some regions travel is 100s of miles, probably $500 to $1000 a year/athlete (and that's just the kid, not family). Travel to JNs (again just the kid) - $1000 and $3000 if it's on the other side of the country. Roller skis (2 pairs, $300 (used for 2) to $700 for 2 new ones. Regional camp $500. National camp for the really good skiers, $1500 to $2000 including air fare.
Not saying that every single USST member has done this, let alone those getting D1 scholarships, but at the club level this is the kind of investment I've seen.
You may think you know it all, but cannot deny what I have seen. And what I describe above is not inaccurate.
Yes. Kids can get buy on some used boards, poles and boots. But it's really hard to get the right fit for skis, and they'll pay the price on the course if the ski doesn't fit.
And to get a D1 scholarship offers you pretty much have to be at the very top in your state XC meet (like podium) and/or podium finishes at JNs somewhere along the line. A 10th as a J1 or OJ may get you a full ride at Wisconsin Green Bay or Michigan Tech, but not at Vermont or Utah. Some of those schools turn away national champions! Because they get ready and able older/stronger/faster Europeans to ski for them.
My daughter was a very good figure skater. We live in NY State. Back in the late 90's/early 2000's the coaches of the best Olympic skater at the time wanted us to move to California. They said to be prepared to pay from about 40K-50K a year on ice time, lessons, travel, etc.
I'm a teacher.
She switched to running and got a college scholarship!!
Interesting. A close friend had a couple sisters who were good skaters. Mom moved the girls to Colorado Springs to train at the Olympic Training Center. They got sponsorships to pay for everything. It was weird... the girls ended up as the breadwinners for the family through that time.
I was told that was a possibility but it was a chance and my daughter ended up saying she didn't want to.
I don't understand this emphasis on equality. Nothing on earth is equal. In nature, things are never "equal". This is life. There are advantages and disadvantages everywhere, in all human activity. Some are tall, some are fast, some are smart, some have insanely high vo2 max capacity, some are good looking, some have natural charm/personality, some have excellent parents and a nurturing environment, some have money, some have drive and ambition, etc. It is what it is. Life is not "fair". Do your best with what you have.