Bay Area Olympians return home to harsh financial reality

Photo: Santiago Mejía

Photo: Santiago Mejía

As soon as the Rio de Janeiro Olympics were over, synchronized swimmer Mariya Koroleva knew her career was, too.

“I came back from Rio with literally zero dollars in my bank account. Pretty much the Olympics left me broke,” said the 26-year-old Concord resident, who has since retired from her sport and is finishing her master’s degree in sports management at USF.

Swiftly forgotten after the big show, Koroleva represents Bay Area Olympians who returned to a harsh economic reality. No longer in college, in which athletic scholarships help offset expenses in one of the country’s priciest regions, those who remain in the area to train must rely on themselves to fund their athletic ambitions.

It’s a struggle Tony Sandoval, head coach of Cal’s track and field team, has seen many of his world-class athletes endure.

“Once out of college, you need to pay for an apartment, find a place to train, pay your coaches, buy a membership for your weight training and physical therapy. ... All that begins to add up,” Sandoval said.

For athletes like Koroleva who come from less popular sports, reality can hit even harder.

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