Here’s a thought about money: Back in 2005, when Vanessa Atler appeared on the show “Starting Over,” she revealed that in her short professional gymnastics career she had made $60,000.
That was based on — correct me if I’m wrong here, readers — one Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups commercial and one team USA commercial, where she was shown in profile performing on the balance beam and doing a roundoff, back tuck dismount over a camera.
And for that Atler earned $60,000. More than 10 years ago.
So if members of the 2011 World team choose to go pro, power to them. At that rate, if these girls do two or three commercials each, it seems they will make enough to go to college if and when they want to, at a school of their choosing.
Most are also excellent students and likely to earn academic scholarships should they apply for them. Aly Raisman, whose pro status seems to be the question of the day, won a Jewish scholar award at the 2010 Worlds. Jordyn Wieber’s grade point average is as high as her double double mount on floor.
For those who make the Olympic team (and, I believe, for the alternates), there will be the option of accepting post-Olympic tour money, which is said to be enough to cover four years of tuition at a state school at least. For the girls who compete into 2013, there could also be competition prize money.
Should the 2012 Olympic team win gold, their stock will rise together, and they will be marketable as a team entity, the same way the Magnificent Seven were in 1996. Not one of those women maintained her NCAA eligibility, and all have done just fine. Winning gold, however, is not a given, even for a team as deep and talented as the U.S.’s.
When you turn pro, you become a marketable commodity. Ultimately it becomes less about the gymnast as a person and more about the gymnast as a brand. Injuries are bad for the brand. One bad one could doom Olympic chances, squelching enthusiasm for the brand and leading to losses and regrets.
Also, there is more competition now. Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson and Alicia Sacramone have been successful brands since before the 2008 Games, and may have cornered the market for gymnast celebs, especially as all three are in the mix this go-round too.
College gymnastics definitely has its perks. Athletes get tutors, housing, campus VIP status, and some invaluable things, like the sisterhood that comes with being part of an NCAA team. (Oh yeah, and an education worth about $100,000 over four years.)
For the gymnasts who came back from Tokyo with gold in their pocket, professional status is something that should be thought about seriously. But maybe NCAA eligibility should be held onto until there are some definite offers on the table, ones that aren’t contingent on success that may come later.
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