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The Price of Gold: What’s the cost of raising an Olympian?

Aug. 2, 2012
Personal Finance
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No one starts out being a Michael Phelps, Apolo Ohno or Carl Lewis; in fact they don’t even start out being what they are now. Before the million dollar endorsements and appearance deals they spent countless hours and dollars training to become the best in the world, and win the gold medal in the Olympic Games.

One such young Olympian, Gabrielle Douglas (aka the Flying Squirrel), just won the Gold medal in Gymnastics women’s individual all-around. She is only 16 years old and has already claimed six gold medals in competitions around the world, and two at the Olympics. She’s already been on the cover of Sports Illustrated and TIME Magazine and has been interviewed by Brian Williams. Now that she’s won big at the Olympics this year those endorsement deals won’t be far off, but what about the investment that got her there? The training, equipment, competitions and uniforms that helped her become the Olympian she is today. How much did that cost, and how much would it cost you if you wanted to raise a Gabby Douglas of your own?

 The Cost of Raising an Olympian

Gabrielle Douglas started training at Gymstrada Gymnastics in Virginia at the age of six. The cost for Administrative services, which covers team-related work done at the gym, is $1,200 annually. If you were to join the Gymstrada Parents Association (GPA) some of these costs would be alleviated through volunteer work and fund raising, but how much less you will have to pay is unclear. So let’s assume you don’t join the GPA. After enrolling in the program you have to buy apparel and some protective equipment. Grips for bars can cost up to $63, and leotards from Adidas can soar to $174. A warm-up jacket and pants combo also from Adidas can cost as much as $342, and you can end up shelling out $60 for wrist guards. The annual cost of training and administrative fees can cost: $1,893, and a minimum of $20,000 to reach the Olympic level. Then there’s the chance that your child, or even your entire family, will have to relocate in order to get the best training possible.

When Gabby Douglas was 14, she relocated to West Des Moines, Iowa so that she could train under Liang Chow, who trained 2008 gold medalist Shawn Johnson, at Chow’s Gymnastics and Dance Institute. The costs of up rooting can pretty much speak for themselves. An average flight from Virginia to Iowa can cost $700, and the median sale price for a home in Des Moines is $150,500. In Gabrielle’s case, she lives with a host family; so costs may be considerably lower than relocating the whole family.

The Bottom Line

Of course making sure your child gets the required training to be come an Olympic champion can be costly and time consuming, but what is really important is the fun, well-being and growth of your son or daughter. In an interview with Yahoo Sports earlier this month, Gabby’s mom, Natalie Hawkins, said about her daughter moving to Iowa: “[It was the] worst, gut-wrenching decision I have ever made in my entire life…and then I came to a place of resolve. I said, ‘OK, Natalie, you have this one chance to get this right. You mess this up, it’s not going to come around again. This is gymnastics.'” Fostering your child’s athletic dreams will require large amounts of spending, and also huge sacrifices. Finding a program that will be the best for them as well as economically feasible can be a struggle, but there are many options available.


Olympian image via Shutterstock