Top Olympians can receive a decent amount of money through sponsorships and medal-winning performances. For example, some famous Olympians such as Michael Phelps, a famous professional swimmer, was earning tens of millions of dollars in endorsement deals and other things.

team USAHowever, not everyone has the fame and wealth of Michael Phelps. Most Olympians are even competing in a sport that barely gets any attention (such as fencing), or are simply training to get into the Olympics while at the same time working part time to finance their Olympic goals.

The United States Olympic Committee allots around $400 to $2,000 a month for every Olympian, or equivalent to $4,800 to $24,000 a year.  That’s not really a huge amount, considering the costs of training expenses.

John Orosco, an Olympic artistic gymnast, grew up in the Bronx, where he mentioned that his family’s financial situation was very unstable. “Gymnastics is a very expensive sport and [the costs] added up very quickly,” Orosco said. “I had three older brothers, and for a family with so many members, it was really hard for us to meet all the financial needs that I had for my sport.”

Swimmer Natalie Coughline has earned a decent amount of money in sponsorships and bonuses while winning a total of 12 Olympic medals since 2004, though not close to Phelps’ medals and earnings. She remembers the financial pressure she experienced when she was younger and no medals around her neck. Her concern about her own expenses were one thing; the travelling costs of her family when they travel to watch her compete (airfare, lodging, meals, etc.) were another.

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“I’m a swimmer, but it’s not just about the pool time and the swimsuits and the goggles and the coaching — it’s meeting with dietitians, meeting with sports management people, with sports psychologists, traveling to competitions, traveling to practice,” Natalie said. “Those are just a handful of things that add up very, very quickly. When the average Olympian and Paralympian is only making $20,000 a year, they need to get help from outside sources.”

One of those outside sources is the Team USA Registry program, a website which the fans and supporters of the Olympics can visit and donate symbolic “equipment,” ranging from athletic tapes badminton shuttlecocks to high speed treadmill and road bike. And because the equipment is symbolic, the money will serve as a donation to the Team USA Fund, which will be used to support the living and training expenses of Olympians and Paralympians. Donating through the symbolic equipment, Coughlin says, “is a way of putting the price of training into context.”

“It’s a great way for supporters of Team USA and the athletes to understand all the expenses that we have, instead of just trying to go with the pre-conceived notion that if you made it to the Olympics, then everything is taken care of and everything was super easy because we’re athletes and everything is super easy,” Orozco said. “It’s a way for Americans to see we’re not millionaire athletes, we are ordinary people. … [The registry] shows that, yes, we’re athletes and it’s our job, but we also have these other expenses that people aren’t aware of. It kind of sheds a light on all the issues athletes go through in the U.S.”

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