Skiers turn frugal in a tight economy

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Not by choice did U.S. Olympic skier Kaylin Richardson politely decline dinners out with teammates.

Gregor Schlierenzauer celebrates with his trophy after winning the FIS World Cup ski jumping event in Willingen, Germany.   Associated Press
Associated Press
Gregor Schlierenzauer celebrates with his trophy after winning the FIS World Cup ski jumping event in Willingen, Germany.

Nor, truth be told, did she really want to impose on acquaintances and distant relatives by staying with them. Or resist buying that cool sweater she really wanted. Or keep close tabs on her bank statements.

For Richardson, all the cost-cutting came out of necessity, because the U.S. Ski Team told her it could no longer foot the bill for her World Cup travel expenses. She's one of several Alpine racers heading to the Vancouver Games who's been forced to deal with the tough realities of being something less than a star in something less than a big-time sport in the United States during a major economic meltdown.

"If you're winning ski races, then you're going to have plenty of money, and you're doing fine," said Erik Fisher, a first-time Olympian who lives in Middleton, Idaho.

"But it does drop off really fast, though. If you're not winning, you're not making that much money."

Consider: The skiers don't really draw a salary for being on the U.S. team.

Although finishing first at one of the better-paying World Cup races can earn a check for $100,000, usually only around 30 of the 70 or more entrants leave with any prize money at all -- and that can be less than $1,000.

Then again, at least things are better than in the 1950s when racers were sent home with radios and electric shavers.

"Ski racers live a very frugal lifestyle," said downhiller Scott Macartney, who missed making this U.S. Olympic team. "You've got to be pretty conservative. You can't be running up the huge credit card (bills)."

Not in this day and age, certainly.

The U.S. Ski Team's governing body, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, has struggled to attract new business partners and was forced to cut 10 percent from the salary of every employee, including CEO Bill Marolt.

The USSA is not alone when it comes to money issues. The British Olympic Association announced Friday that its ski and snowboard federation went bankrupt -- although the country's 14 athletes in those sports will still compete in Vancouver.

Coaches and athletes alike have felt the effects. U.S. women's Alpine coach Jim Tracy saved money by skipping the trip to a race in Levi, Finland, this season.

"It was a very, very challenging spring," said men's coach Sasha Rearick. "We had to say to certain athletes that normally would be funded, 'This year we can't fund you.'"

Like Richardson, Sarah Schleper, of Vail, Colo., was not on the "A" squad this season, meaning many thousands of dollars worth of travel, food and lodging weren't going to be coming from the team.

Schleper basically funds herself, traveling with her husband and 2-year-old son in tow as she gets ready for her fourth Olympics.

Richardson faced two options: quit skiing, even though the Olympics were on the horizon, or plunder personal savings in an attempt to earn a spot on the roster heading to Vancouver.


Austrian ski jumper earns eighth win

WILLINGEN, Germany -- Austria's Gregor Schlierenzauer captured his eighth World Cup ski jumping victory of the season Saturday, winning the final individual event before the Vancouver Olympics.

Schlierenzauer had the longest jump of the day in the first session of 142.5 meters before finishing off his 32nd career World Cup win with a jump of 137.5 meters and a score of 273.7.

Norway's Anders Jacobsen finished second with 269 points while German Michael Neumayer was third with 264.5 points.

The top eight in the World Cup overall standings remained the same with Simon Ammann, of Switzerland, still top with 1,249 points. Schlierenzauer's 100 points for the victory pulled the Olympic favorite to within 57 points of Ammann.

-- Associated Press


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