Glen Rock native Summer Britcher has traveled the world in the last eight years to compete in various luge events all across the globe.
How is it all paid for, though? The simple answer is the U.S. Luge Association covers most of the associated costs such as travel, food and room and board, allowing for the lugers to worry about training and competing.
This all helped Britcher, a 2012 Susquehannock High School graduate, on her way to becoming the first York County native to compete in the Winter Olympics last month, doing so in women's singles luge in Sochi, Russia.
Making a living: Making a living in the sport is a different story. At times, Britcher has worked part-time as a waitress at a restaurant in Lake Placid, where the U.S. Luge Association is headquartered. But luge is a sport that makes it nearly impossible for athletes to work a separate job if they hope to become good enough to reach the Olympics. And from what I've learned in recent months, you won't get rich competing in luge.
As a result, lugers sometimes are left to do more than just train and compete. For many, they juggle taking online college courses to prepare for a career after luge — Britcher is doing so through DeVry with a focus on business.
For others, they also put in the work to find sponsorships, a topic Britcher has only recently started thinking about.
"It's so hard to get sponsors in my opinion," Britcher said when asked about the subject earlier this month. "To ask someone to give me money is just weird."
From what I could find snooping around online, U.S. Olympians can make anywhere from five-figure to seven-figure earnings a year through sponsorships. And the more popular the sport, the more money will come flowing to athletes from companies wanting to sponsor them.
Gordy Sheer, the U.S. Luge Association marketing director and a former luge Olympian, said the U.S. Luge Association works with its athletes to help them find sponsorships.
Three-time U.S. luge Olympian Erin Hamlin, though, has taken this area to the next level.
Role model: Hamlin became the first singles luger to earn an Olympic medal with a third-place finish last month in Sochi.
She has more than 12,000 Twitter followers. She has her own website. And she works with a marketing agency based in New York City to help her find sponsorships.
As a result, Britcher might have a good role model in Hamlin when it comes to getting sponsors.
However, Sheer said Hamlin's efforts to gain sponsorships really only took off when she won a World Cup race going into the 2010 Winter Olympics. And it appears to be happening for Britcher's other teammate, Kate Hansen, who made her Olympic debut in Sochi.
Hansen picked up the nickname "Dancin' Kate Hansen" when NBC cameras caught her jamming out to tunes on her headphones as she was getting pumped up before races. Perhaps Hansen's growing popularity led to her being asked to pull off a prank for ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live show while in Sochi.
"She (Hansen) got a lot of positive momentum because she had won the last World Cup race of the year going into Sochi," Sheer said. "That gave her a little notoriety coming into the Olympics. And then the cameras picked up on her dancing."
Plus, it helped that Hansen placed 10th in her Olympic debut at the spry age of 21. Britcher, who placed 15th in her Olympic debut, is a year younger.
Like Hamlin and Hansen, Sheer feels Britcher should strictly focus on improving and performing well on the track. And then the sponsorships will come.
"She's on the road to making a name for herself with her results," Sheer said.
And if sponsors do come calling one day, they'll likely favor Britcher's already bubbly personality.
"I got some good advice before to never try to change who you are for a camera," Britcher said. "I'm just going to be myself."
— Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.