Olympic hopefuls devote their lives to training for the Olympic Games. Indeed, to them training is a full-time job that can consume more than eight hours a day, leaving little time for other employment. The question arises about how these athletes support themselves. For most athletes, sponsorship is a form of survival, especially those who compete in non-paying events such as the Olympic Games. Sponsorship can cover the cost of living and training for amateur athletes in several different forms including private, corporate, and team ownership.
Once athletes have secured funding to pursue their dream of winning gold at the Olympics, they sometimes move to an Olympic training facility in preparation for the Games.
The United States Olympic Committee runs three major training centers for elite American athletes, providing the best training in the finest facilities in the world. United States athletes preparing for the Olympic Games, Paralympics, and Pan-Am Games often live at one of the U.S. Training Centers to train over a period months or years. Other athletes visit the facilities occasionally for training camps, coaching, and physical testing.
The three main campuses are located in Colorado Springs, Colorado; Lake Placid, New York; and Chula Vista, California. In addition, there is an Olympic Education Center in Michigan, and two other official training sites in Carson, California, and Birmingham, Alabama.
The U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs opened in 1978, doubling as the headquarters of the U.S. Olympics Committee. Colorado Springs was originally chosen for a training facility due to its high altitude, which is thought to enhance training effectiveness. Prior to a training facility, the complex was home to ENT Air Force Base and the North American Defense Command headquarters. In 1996, USOC opened the new $23.8 million facility, which provides housing, dining, and recreational resources for over 500 athletes and coaches. Colorado Springs features the Aquatics Center, Sports Centers I and II, International Center for Aquatic Research, the Velodrome, the Olympic Shooting Center, and the Olympic Visitor Center. The Colorado Springs facilities provide training for events in swimming, water polo, shooting, boxing, cycling, volleyball, tennis, wrestling, and more.
The Olympic Training Center at Chula Vista, California, is a year-round, warm-weather training facility-the first Olympic training site to be planned from the ground up. The complex was a gift to the United States Olympic Committee from the San Diego National Sports Training Foundation. Chula Vista opened in 1995 and supports about 4,000 athletes each year who are training for nine Olympic sports, including archery, canoe and kayak, cycling, field hockey, rowing, soccer, softball, tennis, and track and field.
The Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, New York opened in 1989. The most common Olympics events that athletes train for at Lake Placid include the biathlon, bobsled, figure skating, ice hockey, luge, skiing, and speed skating. In addition, boxing, canoe and kayak, judo, rowing, synchronized swimming, taekwondo, team handball, water polo, and wrestling also train at the site. The athlete center, which includes a 20,000-square foot gymnasium, adjoins the housing and dining facility.
Aspiring U.S. Olympic athletes have a unique opportunity to train and receive an education at Northern Michigan University located on Lake Superior in Marquette, Michigan. NMU is the nation's only Olympic Education Center. Since 1985, more than 43 countries have sent over 25,000 athletes, coaches, and officials to participate in training opportunities in 30 different sports. Athletes who have participated in the NMU program have won more than 70 Olympic medals. United States Olympic Education Committee athletes can attain a high school, undergraduate, and master's degree diploma at NMU, paying in-state tuition costs. The university's facilities include the Superior Dome, PEIF Athletic Complex, BerryEvents Center, and Meyland Hall.