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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

Michael Phelps left with one meet before Olympic Trials

Michael Phelps
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Michael Phelps could face his lightest-ever competition run-up to an Olympic Trials after opting not to swim at a meet in Atlanta next week.

Last week, Phelps noted one other scheduled meet before the U.S. Olympic Trials (June 26-July 3). That’s in Austin, Texas, from June 3-5.

In his previous four Olympic cycles, Phelps swam at least two meets in the final two months before the Olympic Trials, according to USA Swimming statistics.

Phelps’ training plan in May and June will be impacted by the impending birth of his first child. Fiancée Nicole Johnson is 36 weeks pregnant, according to her Instagram.

Without Phelps, the Atlanta meet is expected to include five-time 2015 World champion Katie Ledecky, 12-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin, Olympic 100m free champion Nathan Adrian and rising sprint freestyler Caeleb Dressel.

VIDEO: Phelps’ interview with Matt Lauer

Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic chief quits

Pyeongchang 2018
Reuters
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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A former South Korean government minister was nominated to take over the organizing committee of the 2018 Winter Olympics on Tuesday, just hours after Cho Yang-ho quit amid escalating financial troubles at the business group his family controls.

Lee Hee-beom, a former minister of industry and energy, needs to be ratified by a vote of senior committee officials to officially become president of the organizing committee for the Pyeongchang Games.

Cho’s sudden resignation marked the second change in less than two years at the helm of the local organizing committee, which had struggled to get preparations back on track in the face of venue construction delays, disputes over the location of the Olympic Stadium and slow pace of domestic sponsorship.

Cho is chairman of the Hanjin Group, which controls Olympic sponsor Korean Air and a major shipping company struggling with heavy debt.

He said in a statement he couldn’t continue with the Olympic job because he needs to focus on stabilizing Hanjin Shipping, South Korea’s largest container carrier, which said last week that it will undergo a debt revamp program with creditors in its last-ditch efforts to stay in business.

Cho took over as president of Pyeongchang’s organizing committee in July 2014 after the sudden resignation of Kim Jin-sun, the former governor of the region that includes Pyeongchang.

“For the past two years, I have truly put forward my very best efforts to work with every member of the organizing committee to prepare a successful Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in 2018,” Cho said in the statement. “I can proudly say that POCOG has become a strong team, and the challenges we have overcome have allowed us to achieve success at our first official test events this past February.”

Pyeongchang organizers have faced a series of challenges in recent years, including the construction delays, local conflicts over venues and criticism about their financial planning, but preparations had seemed to turn a corner after the successful hosting of test events earlier this year in Olympic venues.

Gunilla Lindberg, head of the International Olympic Committee’s coordination commission for the 2018 Winter Games, said the IOC respected Cho’s decision and appreciated his cooperation in recent years.

“Under his leadership, the organizing committee has made great progress and has delivered very successful test events,” Lindberg said. “There remain a number of important steps to be taken ahead of the Games and the IOC remains confident that through our close cooperation with the Pyeongchang 2018 organizing committee these will be successfully addressed.”

The announcement of Cho’s resignation came on the same day the Olympic flame was set to land in Brazil, where problems in preparations have sometimes overshadowed the build up to the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro in August.

MORE: New events added for 2018 Olympics