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Crowdfunding Website Helps Olympians Achieve Their Dream


Achieving the Olympic dream is not just about hard work, it's about money. It costs a lot. Although a few elite athletes earned millions in endorsements, most competitors must pay their own way. Bill Kerig is a documentary filmmaker. Recently he started RallyMe, a crowd-funding site to help athletes raise the money they need to have a shot at the Winter Games. We reached him at Salt Lake City.


BILL KERIG: Well, thank you, Renee.

MONTAGNE: First, give us a sense. What does it cost to get to the Olympics?

KERIG: The average cost per athlete in the Winter Olympics, they will have spent 85 to $250,000 per year for most of these athletes for a decade.

MONTAGNE: Give us an example. What might one have to shell out a lot of money on?

KERIG: Travel, you're looking at 150 to 200 travel days per year for every one of these athletes. Then, when you come to equipment, you know, you're looking at speed skates: $1900 for the boots, $650 for the blade. You need three or four pair. If you're lucky enough maybe you have a sponsor that picks up the cost of your equipment. But even if all of these expenses are covered, now you've got a really, really taxing full-time job that doesn't pay you anything.

MONTAGNE: You can't have a great career, a high-paying career while you're devoting more or less all of your time to training. So a lot of these athletes do what?

KERIG: One of the elite ski jumpers who is going to the Olympics is a hostess at a restaurant. Lots of other athletes work at Home Depot. And these are $10 hour part-time jobs.

MONTAGNE: Well, when it came to this crowd-funding site, how did you think this up?

KERIG: About four years ago, I was making a film and it was about women ski jumpers and their fight for gender equality in the Winter Olympics. And here we have a world champion standing at a farmers market with a salad bowl on the table, saying, hey, have you heard about women ski jumping - anything you can give would really help. And I had crowdfunded part of the funding for my film. And I'm going, wait a minute, why aren't you using the Internet?

So fast-forward one year, we launch RallyMe. Lindsey Van is the first athlete we had on there, she set out to raise $13,000 and she raised almost $21,000. She was able to kick out her three roommates, quit her part-time job and focus full-time on Sochi. And she's going to the Sochi Olympic Games.

MONTAGNE: Now, when you're talking about Lindsey Van, you are not talking about the other ski champion Lindsey Vonn. Right, let's clarify.

KERIG: The other Lindsey - yeah, the comparison is really great because Lindsey Vonn and Lindsey Van are both world champions. Lindsey Vonn is an alpine ski racer. Lindsey Van is a ski jumper. They're both pioneers in their sport. Lindsey Vonn makes many millions of dollars a year. Lindsey Van works for $10 an hour as an assistant physical therapist at a clinic in Park City, Utah.

MONTAGNE: What is in it for people out there who send in their money? Obviously it's not a direct kind of investment.

KERIG: What the boosters are really getting is they're buying the story. Yeah, maybe you get a hat, maybe you get a signed picture, a Facebook shout-out, but really what you're buying is a story. I can look at that athlete in Sochi and say, I was a part of that - I helped her get there. For me, it's so worth it.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.

KERIG: Well, thank you. This has been excellent.

MONTAGNE: Bill Kerig is the founder of RallyMe. That's a crowd-funding site for athletes including those headed to the Winter Olympic Games.


MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.