An Olympic speedskater on food stamps, Emily Scott, was profiled recently in the media and brought attention to a uniquely American poverty — our Olympic athletes are the only ones competing at that level worldwide without any financial support to allow them to engage in the training necessary to compete in the games.
Scott’s decision to go on food stamps was not an easy one, but, unlike athletes in other countries, American Olympic hopefuls rely solely on sponsorships to support them while training in a full time schedule.
USA Today published a story about Scott’s situation as she trains for the Winter Olympics in Russia in seven months.
This month, Scott saw her monthly stipend drop from an already small $1,950 to just $600 — and training six days a week for eight hours a day means that she’s only able to work part-time on top of her necessary preparations for the Olympics.
The paper wrote:
Scott grew tearful as she discussed her food stamps application. ‘The last thing you want to be worried about in a year like this is being able to pay your rent and eat, and you want to eat healthy,’ she said at lunch as she twirled a spoon in a bowl of soup. ‘That was pretty hard. … But I’m not the only one suffering.’
U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun acknowledged the situation Monday, confirming to the outlet that an aspiring Olympian on food stamps is not unusual. Blackmun added:
“I wish we could support everybody … But the truth is, our job is to put as many Americans that we can on the podium so we try to prioritize our support … With our limited resources, there’s no way we could support every athlete who aspires to be an Olympian.”
In just one day, Scott’s admission that she needed assistance in order to train for the Olympics drove donations to her GoFundMe page. While she’d raised less than $200 in the previous two months, her total donations jumped to more than $25,000 tonight — just one day later.
Earlier today, the Olympic hopeful posted a message to the site, saying:
I know that Thank You is not enough but sincerely, Thank You to everyone that has donated and everyone for just believing in me. I promise that I will give 110% every single day. Every single one of you are truly a blessing to me, Thank You.
She told the paper that the outpouring of support bolstered her in a dark time:
“It’s astonishing that people care that much. I thought my own governing body didn’t believe in me and for these strangers to believe in me, it felt really good.”
Before Scott’s story hit the national media and many Americans learned our Olympic athletes often live below the poverty line, Lolo Jones drew fire from critics for making similar complaints about low athlete compensation.