Sabrina B.

Many athletes headed to the 2012 London Games put in thousands of hours of practice from young ages. And their families parted with thousands of dollars to help make it happen.

Maya Lawrence has been fencing for 16 years. The 32-year-old Paris resident first took up the sport as a high school sophomore in Teaneck, N.J., continuing through her years at Princeton University and beyond.

These days, the annual cost of Lawrence’s training (typically four hours a day, six days a week), equipment, camps and competitions runs about $20,000. The New York Athletic Club, a major supporter of top U.S. fencers, covers much of that, but the biggest financial cost for an adult Olympic hopeful like Lawrence is lost wages. Careers go on hold, sometimes for years.

Whether it’s fencing, weightlifting, archery, table tennis, or many of the other events that don’t get much network airtime, price tags can be high for those who begin training at a young age. Some Olympic aspirants in table tennis start playing at age 6, according to Teodore Gheorghe, chief operating officer of USA Table Tennis. Many take eight to 12 years to perfect their games, spending as much as $15,000 annually on coaches and sparring partners. A top-quality paddle runs $300 and up. Many top prospects travel to China for better competition.

Sometimes, an athlete pursuing an expensive sport can catch a break to save a few bucks. Archery typically costs the family of an aspiring Olympian up to $25,000 annually in coaching, equipment, trips, and practice range time. Success requires a rigorous work ethic of 250 shots a day, six days a week. “It’s about becoming as close to a machine as humanly possible,” says Teresa Iaconi, spokeswoman for USA Archery and a former coach. But Iaconi relates the story of Ariel Gibilaro, a 17-year-old from North Branford, Conn., who has been shooting competitively for four years. Gibilaro, who missed this year’s Olympic cut but who is considered a strong candidate for 2016, got her required 70 feet of shooting space on a neighbor’s farm. That allows her to bypass the $9 an hour range fee other pay, a rate that can add up to several thousand dollars a year.


Archery - Annual Cost: $25,000-plus

Table Tennis - Annual Cost: $20,000-plus

Fencing - Annual Cost: $20,000

Gymnastics - Annual Cost: $15,000

Weightlifting - Annual Cost: $5,000

Cycling - Annual Cost: $3,000

WRITTEN BY Tom Van Riper, Forbes Staff & FULL STORY HERE