Mountains of Money
PARK CITY, UTAH — When Sarah Hendrickson looks down the long in-run at the women’s World Cup jumping event in Lillehammer this fall, and when Ted Ligety peers out of the start at Soelden next month, a massive amount of effort and dollars form the platform and base for their season openers. They are beneﬁ ciaries of a $12 million athletic program that may well be the strongest in Olympic winter sports worldwide.
“The driving force behind USSA and our various divisions is 100 percent athletic funding,” Executive Vice President of Athletics Luke Bodensteiner says from a conference room overlooking the massive strength-training ﬂoor of the Center of Excellence (COE). “Athletic funding is growing [USSA] as an organization. It is our focus and the reason for everything we do.”
Within the past two years the International Olympic Committee has added several new sports (ski halfpipe; ski and snowboard slopestyle; snowboarding parallel slalom and women’s ski jumping) to the Games. These disciplines present “real medal opportunities” to USSA but have forced at least an additional $1 million of expenses onto the athletic budget.
“Certainly, we will be able to generate some sponsorship dollars from these sports, but not enough to cover the cost of the start-up programs,” Bodensteiner explains.
Nothing rankles him more than the fact that he has to ask young, non-A-Team athletes to fund all or a portion of their travel and, in some cases, room and board. This can range from $5,000 to $20,000. Alpine racing is the most expensive discipline — it costs around $200,000 per athlete — primarily because of the extensive amount of travel. In other disciplines, athletes can be asked to pay almost all of their cost.”