This Is the Insane Amount of Money It Takes to Become an Olympic Figure Skater

MacMadame

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I didn't say there was. I was noting the possible lost opportunity and/or lack of imagination I see, in general, and this was a metaphorical example of that. Perhaps my tongue wasn't firm enough in my cheek.
I just think you are projecting and assuming a lot based on one small piece of one skater's life. Also, saying that her having this job is an example of lack of imagination makes it seem like all the female figure skaters get jobs as ice girls (while the boys drive zambonis?) because no one thinks "girl" figure skaters can do anything else. However, Mirai is the only elite skater I know of who has had this job. It's much more normal for elite skaters to do a little coaching, work the snack bar at the rink, sew costumes for other skaters on the side, etc. So being an ice girl is actually thinking outside the box.
 

Cant Skate

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At one point I was paying $30,000 CAN per year when my daughter skated two diciplines. I was paying 4 different coaches, 4 costumes, about 15 hours of singles ice and 8 hours of pairs ice, personal training twice per week and travel to competitions across this vast country at least 4 times per year. (and air travel in Canada is pricey $$$$$) This was at the NOVICE level. My husband and I are by no means wealthy, my house fell into disrepair and our credit cards were racked to the point we are still trying to dig our way out. When she decided to retire after high school and go to university, I was like "Thank God because its so much cheaper!" How whacked is that? But I dont regret a single penny spent because the life lessons she learned and the experiences she gained from skating have been worth it. We've raised a kind, well rounded, responsible young lady who is grateful for the blessings afforded to her and I believe this has set her up well for success later in life. Can this be accomplished with a less expensive sport? Absolutely. But figure skating was the sport she fell in love with and we supported it the best we could with what we had. I would change nothing. I am grateful that we were able to give her those opportunities but I am glad its over :D Had I known then when she first started to show some talent, what I know now, I may have encouraged her to play community soccer, lol...
 

WildRose

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At our Club at least 2/3 of the PreSchool and Can Skaters are in hockey skates. We also get hockey players who come for power skating classes. When they teach power skating, the coaches change into hockey skates.
 

millyskate

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One of the complaints I used to hear from coaches is the lack of practice ice skaters use, that the parents always want their kids to be in a lesson when it isn't necessary. In addition the lack of off ice training resulting in skaters only skating when they are being coached. My daughters old coach who has a competitive skating daughter tells me for every 15 minute coaching lesson a skater should be doing 45 minutes on their own and an hour off ice. Perhaps someone with more knowledge of the Russian system can give some input but I believe there is a lot of 'group' coaching and off ice work - like many places in Europe where ice availability is limited. I think a different mentality in the USA. I would love to know the daily schedules of skaters in different countries for comparison.
British skater Philip Harris gives an overview of his training day in this interview. It sounds like 3 hours of ice a day + 2 hours off ice.

Lori Nichol is certainly not required ;)

You can get international level choreography and pay appropriately $10,000 or even a bit less for two senior programs. Juv and pre Novice/ intermediate choreography is often a lot less.

I know around here if you are on the provincial team there is free ice available (usually an hour a day) at a few municipal rinks.

I think the key is there is a lot you CAN spend money on, but you don’t HAVE to. Don’t get me wrong, skating is brutally expensive, but there are definitely areas where you can cut expenses.
In the interview above, Phil Harris mentions his coach doing the choreography. Others do their own. There isn't an actual need to spend anything on choreography, unless one is doing ice dance, where it's probably harder to get by without.
 
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Jozet

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I just think you are projecting and assuming a lot based on one small piece of one skater's life. Also, saying that her having this job is an example of lack of imagination makes it seem like all the female figure skaters get jobs as ice girls (while the boys drive zambonis?) because no one thinks "girl" figure skaters can do anything else. However, Mirai is the only elite skater I know of who has had this job. It's much more normal for elite skaters to do a little coaching, work the snack bar at the rink, sew costumes for other skaters on the side, etc. So being an ice girl is actually thinking outside the box.
No one lets the girls drive the Zambonis at our rink. I'm perpetually offended by this.
 

flyingsit

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In some places there is a lot of spending money because you CAN. When I was skating, there were prelim and pre-juv skaters with lessons every day, sometimes more than one each day. And some of those kids were in lessons most of the time they were on the ice (maybe one session a day practicing on their own).
 

mag

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In the interview above, Phil Harris mentions his coach doing the choreography. Others do their own. There isn't an actual need to spend anything on choreography, unless one is doing ice dance, where it's probably harder to get by without.
I think there are some coaches who might be able to do choreography, but it is really a skill unto itself. Well constructed programs are difficult to do. I look at Karen Chen’s original short for this year. It was, IMHO, brilliant. Did it need work and polish and maybe a bit of tweaking? Yes, but it was 100 x’s the program she choreographed for herself.

We can, of course, all find examples to support our views, but I would argue that for many Skaters professional choreography is well worth the investment.
 

Willin

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I'm just not happy with the idea of "ice girls"...maybe when there are scantily clad "ice boys" scooping the ice at the women's hockey games, I'll be ok with fair play. But a different conversation for a different day.

The Colorado Avalanche should be paying her to teach edges and turns to their players. They could have paid her training costs in a couple of clinics.
I mean, I don't like the bikini calendars, creepy male fans, overly sexy outfits, or the fact that some teams (NFL in particular) have their cheerleaders go to private parties with rich old men stockholders to butter them up into investing more, but I'm not wholly against the idea.
TBH if I was in skating shape I'd totally want to be an ice girl. It would motivate me to stay in shape (you often get free gym memberships), I might get to travel a few places if my team made the playoffs, I'd get free skates, free NHL games, free hairstyling/make-up, free entry to cool events at fancy places I could never afford to go, I'd get to help with charities, and I'd get some $$$ outside of the day job. I actually know a lot of girls who wanted to try out. Unfortunately my local NHL team does not have a team and recently they've moved from hiring skaters and dancers to primarily hiring dancers. I know some hockey schools have ice cheerleaders, but it's incredibly competitive to get on the team.

One of the complaints I used to hear from coaches is the lack of practice ice skaters use, that the parents always want their kids to be in a lesson when it isn't necessary. In addition the lack of off ice training resulting in skaters only skating when they are being coached. My daughters old coach who has a competitive skating daughter tells me for every 15 minute coaching lesson a skater should be doing 45 minutes on their own and an hour off ice. Perhaps someone with more knowledge of the Russian system can give some input but I believe there is a lot of 'group' coaching and off ice work - like many places in Europe where ice availability is limited. I think a different mentality in the USA. I would love to know the daily schedules of skaters in different countries for comparison.
I had this problem a lot. Parents only wanted their kids to skate when they had a lesson, and they either wouldn't practice on non-lesson sessions or wouldn't do anything constructive. It's like they had no practice routine. I tried to put this into place, but a lot of the skaters only did it while I was watching. I believe some of the other coaches make skaters take logs and compare notes with other coaches as to whether or not they saw a skater come in on a day that the main coach was out.

No one lets the girls drive the Zambonis at our rink. I'm perpetually offended by this.
Hahaha We had some girls force the hockey guys to teach them how to drive it because they wanted to try. I know a couple girls who did drive the zambonis at their rink, but they didn't particularly like it. I've noticed at most rinks this is less of a gender thing and more of who does what. Most female employees are coaches/teachers, in the proshop, or are otherwise in positions where they speak to people; the men do the gruntwork and the zamboni (and skate monitoring so they can do nothing during their shift).
 

MacMadame

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Had I known then when she first started to show some talent, what I know now, I may have encouraged her to play community soccer, lol...
One of the reasons I didn't make a big effort to get my kid to skate or do gymnastics when she showed a little interest is because I knew when she went through puberty, she would not have the right body type for either sport. And that she'd probably start this process at age 11 or 12. Even if she had totally fallen in love with these sports, I think I would have been subtly discouraging. Unlike when she turned out to be good at t-ball and I was very encouraging because going to college on a Softball scholarship would have been a nice outcome and, even if that didn't happen, she'd at least have a good time without me spending $10-20,000 on a sport for an 8-year-old.

There are so many other sports out there. People have said that they don't like these articles because they discourage people from entering the sport. I say: Good! Parents should know what they are getting into so they can make the best decisions they can for their families.

As for costs, around here (high COL area), people typically spend about $10-20k when their kids make the jump from recreational skater to serious skater (skating 4-6 times a week with private lessons) and then at some point those expenses climb and an elite skater who makes it to Sectionals most years and sometimes even Nationals is paying more like $45-75k. Of course, there are people who pay more because they can and they want to. But you don't have to. The people doing it for $45k are making some sacrifices but they are still paying for choreography, getting decent costumes, and traveling to competitions as necessary. Maybe they only go with their coach and not their family or maybe they even use a local coach who is already going to the comp instead of their coach sometimes and maybe only get 2 new costumes a year and reuse costumes for their exhibitions and practice ice at comps. But they are still getting the lessons they need, the ice time they need, and the off-ice training they need, which is the important thing.

There isn't an actual need to spend anything on choreography, unless one is doing ice dance, where it's probably harder to get by without.
If your coach does your choreography, you are still paying for it. But usually you pay his standard lesson time rate and do it as part of your lessons. Still costs money though.

No one lets the girls drive the Zambonis at our rink. I'm perpetually offended by this.
Now that is a good example of what you were talking about earlier. (Staff at the rinks I went to are the ones who run the Zambonis and that includes the women.)
 

gkelly

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There are so many other sports out there. People have said that they don't like these articles because they discourage people from entering the sport. I say: Good! Parents should know what they are getting into so they can make the best decisions they can for their families.
Yes. But I think it's best to be clear that the very high expenses are for what it takes to be a successful competitive skater.

It would also be helpful if there were also acknowledgment that recreational figure skating (low levels and test track, low to mid-level synchro, etc.) is more comparable to what many middle-class families spend on other sports/activities.

And that competitive skating below elite levels is too expensive for most families so if they get started in the sport they should know they may not be able to afford the competitive track, but that it is possible to compete at middle levels with modest expectations and a moderate amount of commitment -- more than soccer or ballet would cost them, but not as much as it takes to get to Nationals and beyond.
 

Jozet

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TBH if I was in skating shape I'd totally want to be an ice girl.
Well, you know, I'm not going to go full-on social justice warrior-uber feminist - hashtagmee too over this. :) If I knew then what I knew now about how my body would change in the past 30 years, back in my 20s, I would have walked around in a bikini all day long.

Still...it's hard not to see both sides of the coin on this, you know? It's ironical in more than one way.

Amen on the skate monitoring. I'm always the mean mom out there telling the kids to stop throwing snow balls or kicking around the cones. I wish they'd just give me a damn jacket to wear. :)
 
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If I knew then what I knew now about how my body would change in the past 30 years, back in my 20s, I would have walked around in a bikini all day long.
You can almost hear the thought bubbles when a former champion in her 50's or 60's or 70's presents flowers to the teenagers and young women in their early 20's on the podiums: "That will *never* happen to me!" :)

I'm very grateful to the wealthy and/or crazy parents who fund their children in this sport, and to the skaters who scrimp and save once they're on their own, because I get to watch it. I do feel bad for the siblings in skating and any elite activity where the families are separated and/or family life revolves, attention-wise and financially, around the one pursuing elite sports, music, acting, dancing, etc., because the parents are adults who are making choices to live the way they have to.
 
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Willin

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@Jozet To be fair, I will go full social justice about how awful the pay is for NFL/NBA cheerleaders and how they're pimped out for money via swimsuit calendars and corporate event appearances. Not to mention their pay gap (ie. a mascot for a team will make $50k+ a year, they make below minimum wage as they aren't paid for practices).
It doesn't seem like Mirai's costumes were overly sexy over what girls wear these days anyways. I don't even know how sexy they can be considering the temperature of ice rinks!
 

Tavi

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@Jozet To be fair, I will go full social justice about how awful the pay is for NFL/NBA cheerleaders and how they're pimped out for money via swimsuit calendars and corporate event appearances. Not to mention their pay gap (ie. a mascot for a team will make $50k+ a year, they make below minimum wage as they aren't paid for practices).
It doesn't seem like Mirai's costumes were overly sexy over what girls wear these days anyways. I don't even know how sexy they can be considering the temperature of ice rinks!
The Avalanche ice girls costumes look relatively conservative compared to those worn by, say, the Blackhawks ice crew (very low cut, bare midriffs, very short skirts), and it’s nice that they post bios of the women, some of whom have some pretty impressive bios (Yale grad? Premed? And I recognize one woman who currently competes as an adult figure skater). Unfortunately, though, I think many of the NHL teams don’t treat their ice girls much differently than NBA/NFL cheerleaders. See this 2014 article:

https://www.motherjones.com/politic...es-kings-new-york-rangers-stanley-cup-finals/
 

MacMadame

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It would also be helpful if there were also acknowledgment that recreational figure skating (low levels and test track, low to mid-level synchro, etc.) is more comparable to what many middle-class families spend on other sports/activities.
Even at the recreational level, figure skating is the most expensive sport my kids did. The equipment was about the same as soccer, but soccer is a team sport so other fixed costs were spread among the team and also all the coaches were volunteers. I agree with those who think having more semi-private and small group lessons available instead of having to pick between big group lessons or private would go a long way to cutting down the costs.
 

Skittl1321

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Amen on the skate monitoring. I'm always the mean mom out there telling the kids to stop throwing snow balls or kicking around the cones. I wish they'd just give me a damn jacket to wear. :)
I wish our rink had monitors. It's a damn free for all. But girls can drive the zamboni.

Just looked up the photo of my niece with our local UHL hockey team's ice girls. Happy to see they were wearing jackets! I don't think they get paid at all though.
 
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B.Cooper

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2018 Article in "The Atlantic" by Linda Flanagan, who writes quite a bit about teens and sports, has a new article out that mentions at the elite level, skaters' families can spend up to $100K a year.
https://www.theatlantic.com/educati...g-new-meaning-after-an-olympic-career/553004/

and to put the most recent cost estimates for elite skaters into perspective, an article from the New York Times, 1995, on what the Kwans were spending (Michelle was 14 at the time) ....

http://www.nytimes.com/1995/02/10/s...year-old-s-route-to-fame-fortune-and-fun.html


"Training and travel costs run well over $50,000 a year, and the Kwans have not one daughter competing at the senior level but two. In 1993, Danny Kwan said, he sold the family's $355,000 house to pay off skating debts. He now lives in a home owned by his parents."

Considering the Kwans had two children skating, it is safe to assume that they were spending well in excess of $50K/yr as the article references above that they were spending $50K/yr for one skater... and that was 25 years ago. Based on simple adjusted cost of living index, a 1993 $1.00 is now relative to $1.70 spent. So 1993 $50K would translate to about $85K in 2018. Elite skaters gravitate to the better choreographers, the better coaches, possibly relocating from their families....it all adds up.
 
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British skater Philip Harris gives an overview of his training day in this interview. It sounds like 3 hours of ice a day + 2 hours off ice.



In the interview above, Phil Harris mentions his coach doing the choreography. Others do their own. There isn't an actual need to spend anything on choreography, unless one is doing ice dance, where it's probably harder to get by without.
You do not know what you are talking about.
 

Flora

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millyskate

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You do not know what you are talking about.
I'm not suggesting there is no value to professional choreography - far from it. I'm saying there are plenty of coach/athlete combinations without resources who muddle through without. Paying for a professional choreographer isn't a pre-requisite to being competitive in the sport, if you compete as an individual. Not being able to afford one may be limiting, but it's not insurmountable.
 

morqet

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In the article it says that Philip recently became the first Brit to land a quad in competition - do you remember which competition?
Unless it was at a NISA IJS event, I'm not sure that he's actually landed one cleanly - in 2016 in the Warsaw CS event he fell on an under rotated attempt, but I can't see anything else either from Nationals or his other CS events.
 

AnnMJensen

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No doubt the lady with the 11 year old thinks her daughter is the next Michelle Kwan but those costs are ridiculous and unnecessary. She’s going to burn her daughter out and all the money in the world won’t fix that.[/QUOTE
Duhamel thinks the costs in the article are exaggerated. Maybe Mrs. Freezer can chat with her about economizing?
As Mrs. Freezer and her mom are now visiting Canada for training, it seems she heard all the helpful and kind suggestions you all have so generously made.
It really makes you amazed and thankful that there are any great skaters at all. You would think the money pressures would push out everyone with mere talent. But somehow all kinds of people manage to make it. Astounding.
For years there have been stories about parents who work second jobs and mortgage homes to make it work. And I am sure there are many sports with stories like this.
 
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Hi all

Thanks for the valuable advice and uplifting comments about our family. My suggestion is when reading articles to remember that is what they are, somebody rounding up information and compiling it into an article. Who paid $10K for a dress I do not know, but if that is their choice so it is. The article was to promote a free tool in the www.onup.com site that helps you save/ plan for the future. It is a tool I wish I had a long time ago.

No I do not commute for an afternoon to Edmonton, I would be commitable then, we actually train full time with Ravi Walia. Yes cost is a 1/5th if US but that was not the reason.
My daughter loves to skate, but we are realistic she is not built correct, so wanted to find her a nurturing loving environment, with a caring coach, whether you are good or not. It was a mutual agreement between us and her previous coach, whom we greatly respect. We originally wanted to go back to her first coach, in Denver, we are still very close with but she is backing down and preparing to part time.

When we were spending $60K+ it was not by our choice, but we did what the coach told us to and it adds up fast, I never believed in lots of lessons but their argument was she is young and needs it, she is our only daughter so we did...

She sees a trainer 4-5 days per week, of those days they play soccer...she loves the gym, why would I deny her that, walking the dog at 12F would be an irresponsible parent.

The Raye costume was us being taken advantage of, I was quoted $600 but when my husband went to pick it up he “paid the bill” and asked no questions. I have never used the designer again, tried a designer out of Utah but never got my dress last year....so if Meagan has recommendations she should lend a hand a share them versus criticize.

Yes Canada is way way way way way cheaper.

My daughter is home school for belief reasons not skating. Her school does prom ect. If you ever met Elise you would see a very happy kid.

Trust me I wish she would find a new interest, we have tried everything, but she keeps going back.

Knee surgery was at 8, had nothing to do with skating, she was born with severe OCD in her knee and it was surgery at 8 or knee replacement at 18.... we never thought she would want to go back. Hamstring tear, no avulsion fracture of the superior insertion of hamstring, due to a collision when she was in mid air with a senior lady at regionals... nothing to do with over training....

Marai being a ice-girl, cute costumes, pays well, after hours and did not impact her training. She had a mission and she was going to make it happen, and she did, and earned money without impacting training... genius!

Anything else I need to clarify. Our intention was to better prepare parents, to plan, we were “guided” by coaches and made many mistakes! Yes moving was work related! Bless you if you never had to!
 

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