Olympic glory can be expensive.
But the investment has been worth it, at least for the Ali family.
David Ali knew his son Sadam had gifted hands way back when Sadam was 8 years old and dancing around the ring at the Bed-Stuy Boxing Club in Brooklyn, N.Y. That's why the family supported Sadam through 11 years of training, for about eight hours a day. That support helped the 19-year-old lightweight become the first New Yorker to make the U.S. Olympic boxing team since Riddick Bowe in 1988. See Sadam Ali in action
"It cost hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years," says David, a 46-year-old father of five who works in his family's real-estate company. "But I knew I was going to do whatever I had to make sure he followed his dream." Olympian's dad: 'Never again'
For so many young athletes and their parents, reaching for an Olympic berth is a fiscal, as well as a physical, challenge. Think about it: coaches, clothing, housing, food, travel and baby sitters for siblings.
And unlike in, say, China -- where state-sponsored training schools help support athletes -- the U.S. Olympic Committee is one of few national Olympic committees whose athletes do not receive government funding, says Nicole Saunches, a U.S. committee spokeswoman.
For many years, Olympic athletes weren't allowed to accept endorsements, prizes or corporate sponsorships to underwrite training or living expenses. That changed in 1978 with the adoption of the Olympic and Amateur Sports Act. And over the past 30 years, regulations have been changed several times to increase financial support for the athletes. In 1988, the Olympic Games began to allow professional athletes to compete. The payoff from a gold medal
Liberalization of the regulations has helped some athletes, but not all. Many families continue to face major financial challenges as they evaluate options for a young athlete.
Talk back: Would you pay to raise an Olympian?
"You want your child to be happy," says David Ali. "I did whatever I had to, to make sure he had everything he needed."
Sometimes expenses mount in ways that can be hard to predict.
Gymnast Shawn Johnson's parents, for example, took out a line of credit on their home and have used that money over the years to cover travel expenses. The debt has made a dent in the family finances, but that's a price parents seem willing to pay. Photo: See Shawn competing