Olympic medals don't come with much cash—just ask Monica Aksamit.
The U.S. fencer won bronze on the podium at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, her greatest award in a collection of other impressive titles that includes multiple gold medals in team events at the Pan American Fencing Championships.
Considering her pedigree, it may be hard to believe Aksamit had to start a GoFundMe page with the hopes of raising the funds required for her to train full-time and travel in the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Fortunately, the Morganville, New Jersey-based athlete has received over $29,000 in donations since the campaign's launch in early September and easily surpassed her original $21,000 goal.
Aksamit recently opened up to the New York Post about life as a professional fencer, saying that it's impossible to hold down a steady job while training and competing.
“Now I don’t have to worry as much about traveling and training,” she told the Post. “It takes so much stress off.”
Fencing may be a niche sport that doesn't offer many sponsorship opportunities, but the Olympic qualification process is very expensive, competitive and complicated. Potential Olympians accrue points over four domestic events and eight international championships. The four who earn the most points by April of 2020 qualify for the Olympics.
"The process is so expensive because of all of the travel, as well as registration fees," Aksamit tells Maxim. She offered a meticulous breakdown of expenses that explains why she set her fundraising goal so high.
"On registration and fees, I have to spend $1,715.62. My domestic travel costs come to $3,300, not including transport from airport to hotel and food. My international travel estimate comes to $11,087.08, not including food. I commute five to six times a week into Manhattan. And on top of that, I need a gym membership at home and away for when we have a training camp."
After her story went viral, Aksamit was approached by an influencer-driven marketing firm to do an Instagram deal that could provide further income. With her costs covered for now, Aksamit hopes that the attention she's received will help people understand how financially taxing life as an Olympic athlete can be.
"I don't think many people realized that all Olympians aren't supported financially, and that once you medal you're set for life. I'm happy that I'm able to change that and inform people about the struggles and sacrifices that we have to overcome."