Nike, USA Track & Field to provide financial support for 31 Olympic hopefuls.
USA Track & Field on Wednesday introduced the first athlete recipients of Project 30 funds, designed to help athletes with high medal potential cover their training costs and living expenses.
Thirty-one athletes will receive a total of $800,000 in Project 30 funds in 2010, with $4 million to be spent over the four-year term of the program. The Class of 2010 ranges from established medal winners like Stephanie Brown Trafton, Hyleas Fountain and Chelsea Johnson to young up-and-comers like shot putter Cory Martin, hurdler Dexter Faulk and middle-distance runner Evan Jager. Additional athletes may be added in coming months.
Project 30 athletes sign a contract with USATF and Nike, which sponsors the program, providing them with between $10,000-$50,000 per year. Project 30 athletes will receive Nike shoes and equipment and will compete annually at the USA Indoor and Outdoor Championships, Nike Prefontaine Classic and the Penn Relays, and at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials-Track & Field. They will be asked to participate in press conferences, public appearances and marketing opportunities.
Officials from USATF and Nike selected the athletes in an exhaustive process that took into consideration a host of factors. Athletes who were “medal-ready” and “finals-ready” for major international championships were given first consideration, with athlete need also strongly factoring in. Athletes from all 43 events were evaluated.
“We looked at all 43 events and first picked athletes who had the greatest potential through 2013,” USATF Chief of Sport Performance Benita Fitzgerald-Mosley said. “Our final group is a great mix of veteran athletes and future stars, but they all have one thing in common, and that is their potential to land on the medal podium at the World Championships and Olympic Games. Many athletes were either losing their shoe contracts or seeing them substantially reduced, and we are very pleased to be able to step in and assist athletes perform at their best.”
Athletes without a pre-existing contract with a shoe company and those already with Nike were considered for the program. Athletes under contract with other shoe companies are prevented by their contracts from signing with a competing company and therefore were not eligible for Project 30 funds.
Sport Science at center stage
The signature program of USATF’s High Performance Department, Project 30 is one of several new or expanded projects USATF has undertaken in 2010 to increase athlete support.
Beginning with the first event for sprints and hurdles held June 3-4 in Dallas, USATF has instituted a series of Sport Performance Workshops, where leading sport scientists work one-on-one with top athletes and their personal coaches. With upwards of25 being held each year across all event disciplines, the Workshops are provided to athletes who have been designated as having viable medal potential in the upcoming World Championships and Olympic Games.
Organized by and managed by USATF’s new Associate Director of Sports Medicine & Science Robert Chapman, all Workshops are centered around the comprehensive on-track biomechanical analysis of the athlete, and are supported by the areas of nutrition, psychology, medicine, physiology, and strength & conditioning. Results of all of these areas will be documented to track the status, goals, and improvement of the athlete.
Athletes selected for the program participate in three sessions per year, along with frequent interaction with their coach and the USATF sport science and medicine professionals. Athletes and coaches can consult with a team of experts in nutrition, psychology, medicine and physiology.
“In order to have fact-based decision making, we polled athletes and coaches to ask what they needed,” Fitzgerald Mosley said. “Their #1 need is medical support and #2 is sport science. They wanted more of both, and that’s what we are giving them.”
Also beginning in 2010, USATF has expanded its existing medical reimbursement program to athletes and is providing more nutritional and dietary services. USATF is doubling the amount of medical reimbursement available to athletes ranked in the top 10 in the world to $3,000 per year, and for the first time will reimburse athletes ranked in the top 11-20 in the world for up to $1,500/year in medical costs.
Coaching stipends also will be available to the world top 11-20 for the first time at $1,000 per year. World Top 10’s receive $2,000 in coaching stipends annually. USATF is contracting to provide dietary support — including blood-test evaluations — with a nutritionist. In sport science, Functional Movement Screenings are being performed at the Sport Science Workshops to aid athlete performance and prevent injury. On the medical side, USATF last year partnered with St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis to provide up to $100,000 per year in direct medical services to athletes.
New High Performance Web Site
To better serve athletes in the virtual world, USATF has created an exclusive High Performance Web site, www.usatfhighperformance.com, that consolidates the vast amount of information important to athletes in a single easy-to-navigate site. Athletes and the public can find information on Project 30, High Performance budgets and strategic planning, and a comprehensive list of athlete assistance programs, among other information.
For more information on Project 30, visit their page at USATF.org.