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TODAY: Olympic hopefuls crowd-fund to get to Sochi

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Getting to Sochi is no easy task, athletically or financially. To help out with the latter, Olympic hopefuls are turning to crowd-funding for help, reports TODAY.com.

Athletes create profiles on sites like GoFundMe, Indiegogo and the athlete-centric RallyMe, seeking online donations to help them make it to Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Many of the athletes on crowd-funding sites are U.S. speedskaters, bobsledders and skeleton racers, who don’t have big sponsors like many of the snowboarders and skiers.

“Let’s be honest, I’m not LeBron James,’’ U.S. speedskater Patrick Meek told TODAY.com. “I’m not going to have a billboard in Times Square to promote my story. Athletes can use these sites as another tool in their arsenal. It’s an inexpensive way to get our stories out there and thank our sponsors. Every little bit helps.”

Many Olympic sports athletes train six to eight hours per day and work part-time jobs. Even with a USOC stipend, it can be hard to make ends meet. Crowd-funding websites can connect the dots.

Recent crowd-funding stories have led to more public awareness. Meek, a part-time valet at a Park City, Utah, hotel, recently started his own RallyMe page because he fielded questions from potential donors.

“We’re a little bit more real, and people can feel like they’re part of our story,’’ Meek said. “I think that’s something fans today relish. You don’t have to spend $10,000 on season tickets. You can spend a little on an athlete and feel like you’re part of the journey. It breaks down the barrier between the athletes and the fans and creates a real connection.”

Short-track speedskater Chris Creveling has raised $5,500 out of a goal of $35,000 on his GoFundMe page.

“The Russian skaters aren’t thinking, ‘Am I going to spend this money on rent or groceries?'” Creveling said. “They are thinking, ‘How am I going to get this gold medal?’ Having this extra money gives us the peace of mind to focus on our main goal, too.”

Ski jumper Lindsey Van raised over $20,000 on her RallyMe site through Facebook and even wearing a RallyMe sticker on her competition helmet.

“We’ve become aware of how much people can make, and good for them,” said speedskater Brittany Bowe, who has a RallyMe page. “If that gets them one step closer to making their dreams come true, then awesome. You can’t do anything but be happy for those people. Everybody is out here trying to make their dreams come true.”

Short track speedskater overwhelmed by crowd-funding response

WATCH LIVE: U.S. Olympic marathon trials — 1 p.m. ET

Meb Keflezighi
AP
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The first six members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic track and field team will be determined on the streets of Los Angeles, live on NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra on Saturday.

At the U.S. Olympic marathon trials, the top three finishers in each of the men’s and women’s races will qualify for the Rio Olympics.

WATCH LIVE: U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials — 1-4 p.m. ET

The men’s race (1:06 p.m. ET) includes 2012 Olympic trials winner Meb Keflezighi hoping to become the oldest U.S. Olympic runner ever, Olympic 10,000m silver medalist Galen Rupp in his 26.2-mile debut and three-time Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein, who was fourth at the 2012 trials in Houston.

The women’s race (1:22 p.m. ET) includes all three 2012 Olympic marathon team members — Shalane FlanaganDesi Linden and Kara Goucher. Plus, Amy Cragg, who was fourth at trials four years ago.

Tom Hammond hosts coverage, joined by Craig Masback, Tim Hutchings, Lewis Johnson and Carrie Tollefson.

Olympic Marathon Trials Previews: Men | Women

Shani Davis out of the medals at World Championships for first time

Shani Davis
AP
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Shani Davis finished fifth in his two best events, missing the podium at the World Single Distance Championships for the first time in his career.

Davis, a two-time Olympic 1000m champion and two-time 1500m silver medalist, finished 2.36 seconds behind Russian winner Denis Yuskov in the 1500m on Friday in Kolomna, Russia.

On Saturday, Davis was .68 behind Russian winner Pavel Kulizhnikov in the 1000m. Full competition results are here.

Davis, 33, is the world-record holder in both events and won a surprise World 1000m title last season, after contemplating retirement during a campaign in which he had one World Cup podium finish (a third place).

He is older than any previous World Championships men’s medalist in a distance shorter than 5000m, according to SchaatsStatistieken.nl.

“I’m not a middle-type-of-the-pack skater,” Davis said last year. “If I’m not competitive with the rest of the world, and I’m sixth and seventh and eighth, whatever, then it’s not for me. I can happily move on.”

This season, Davis also has one World Cup podium finish (a third place from Nov. 20).

He struggled at the Sochi Olympics, taking eighth in the 1000m and 11th in the 1500m as part of an overall disappointing performance by U.S. speed skaters.

Later Saturday, Brittany Bowe earned her second Worlds medal in as many days, silver in the 500m behind South Korean Lee Sang-hwa, the two-time Olympic champion and world-record holder. U.S. Olympian Heather Richardson-Bergsma was fifth.

Richardson-Bergsma and Bowe were first and second in the 500m at Worlds last year and second and third in the 1000m on Friday.

Earlier Saturday, Sven Kramer captured his 19th career World Single Distance Championships gold medal and second in as many days.

The Dutchman won his ninth Olympic or World title in the 5000m. Kramer hasn’t been beaten in that race at an Olympics or Worlds since Chad Hedrick topped him at the 2006 Olympics.

MORE: Two years to Pyeongchang: Updates on Sochi Olympic medalists