Sports

Minnitti's Olympic dreams prove very costly

Everyone has dreamed of competing at the Olympic Games one or twice in their lifetime.

Rob Minnitti is no different, except that he’s living out his dream. But as expenses mount and the days to the U.S. Olympic Trials grow ever closer, the former South Kitsap High School standout could use a little help.

And he’s hoping to get it from the citizens of Port Orchard.

“It’s not like it’s a bad cause, I don’t think,” Minnitti said from his Seattle home last week. “I’m trying to make the Olympic Games.”

Minnitti, who played three years of varsity football for the Wolves, quarterbacking them to the state semifinals his junior year and then to the title game his senior year, is in the midst of the final stretch that he hopes will take him to Athens, Greece, this summer, competing in the javelin as a member of the U.S. Olympic Team.

“I’m doing it, partly, for myself. But I’m also doing it to be part of the United States Olympic team,” Minnitti said. “I just feel that somebody needs to start stepping up to the plate if we expect, just like I did before I started doing this, I expected the U.S. to be good in the Olympic Games. I don’t expect us to go and get beat up by other countries. I had an expectation that we’d go there and win gold medals.”

He fully expects to accomplish that, but he’s also trying to get the word out that being an Olympic-caliber athlete is not only hard, it’s expensive. And contrary to many beliefs, the United State Olympic Committee is not there writing checks.

“Once I make the team, they will pay for me to be in the games,” Minnitti said. “They won’t pay my rent here while I’m in Athens competing for them. It’s not like I’m going to get a big, fat check.”

In fact, he gets nothing from the USOC at this time, forcing him to find creative ways to make ends meet.

“It’s not like I’m living a lavish lifestyle,” Minnitti said. “It’s not like I eat steak every night or anything like that. It’s very expensive. Very, very expensive to train and live.”

A quick rundown of his expenses looks something like this: $600 a month in rent, $600 a month for one coach — he can’t afford to pay his other one, $500 a month in food and supplements needed to train, $1,200 a month for airfare and hotel to travel to meets and many other little expenses that add up over the course of time.

“On the surface, it’s $3,000 a month, but I’m sure it more than that,” Minnitti said. “It gets tough fast. When I fly, it’s not me paying for me to fly, it’s me paying for me and my coach to fly and stay.

“I’m living on the cheap and as much as I can,” Minnitti said. “That’s why my fundraising is so important.”

Fundraising is his main source of income, and he does most of it on his own. He recently spoke at the Port Orchard Rotary Club and works as a coach with kids in Woodinville.

Minnitti also gets plenty of support from his family back in Port Orchard, his girlfriend Jessica Allen and her family. The two went to Hawaii, where she grew up and her family still lives, for a month of winter training in the sunshine. While there, Minnitti did a clinic for local youths and received a nice check from a local business.

“She’s very supportive, she’s been great,” Minnitti said of Allen. “She really helps me out. She’s been incredible with the support. I couldn’t ask for someone better. I couldn’t do it without her.”

One of his more successful ways of raising money has been to set up a 501 (c) nonprofit organization account for himself, which allows donations to his cause to be 100 percent tax-deductible.

“If people donate money to me, to the highest extent of the law, it’s tax deductible,” Minnitti said. “It’s just like donating to Goodwill. So anyone that donates, they get to write off. It’s great for them.”

He has also hired a professional fundraiser to help and set up a website, www.seattlespearthrowers.com.

That site, which he maintains, tells his story and plight to make the Olympic team and also gives details into how people can donate to make it possible.

“Call me, ask me what you can do to help,” Minnitti said. “I’m more than happy to talk, come out and talk to kids. I’m happy to do anything. I’m just looking to raise a little bit more money for this year.”

His goal is $10,000 more. That’s enough to get him to the U.S. Olympic

Trials July 15-17 in Sacramento, Calif.

“I’d like to raise $10,000 in the next month, and that would just take care of the rest of my season,” Minnitti said. “That way I could train all day and not have to sit in front of the computer trying to figure out how to raise $500.

“If you start thinking about it, to raise $10,000 shouldn’t be that tough,” Minnitti said. “You get a couple of companies to jump on you. It doesn’t take very many individuals to give you $20 to $50 each before you’ve got $5,000.”

Minnitti said countries like Finland give money directly to their Olympic hopefuls. Seven javelin throws from that country recently received $1 million to pay for training so they can become a world power in the sport.

“That what I compete against,” Minnitti said. “These guys have an unlimited budget and I’m over here trying to scrape by and do my thing.”

Minnitti did win some prize money from the U.S. Championships last year — about $3,000 — and could win more at the Olympic trials. It helps, but it doesn’t compare to the prize money other events pay out.

“Which is fine,” Minnitti said. “I wasn’t really good enough to go on the European circuit and make big dollars or anything like that. But in our country, the Olympics are a big deal. People want to see you compete in the Olympic Games. They want to see us win in the Olympic Games and win the most gold medals. They want us to dominate, but when it comes down to it, no one really wants to pay for it.

“I don’t want to live a lavish life style, I’m not in it for that,” Minnitti said. “Just to be able to live and train, that’s what I’m looking to do, to cover my expenses. I’ll do anything I can to make the U.S. look good.”

That a touchy subject with many Olympic hopefuls.

“It’s kind of a sore subject with all the athletes,” Minnitti said. “They don’t really help you get there, but once you’re really good a company like Nike or somebody will pick you up. It’s kind of a bummer.”

He does get some help from outside the family circle, though.

“I do get some perks,” Minnitti said. “A lot of people are pretty generous. They help me out with anything they can, but how much can you afford to give?”

Microsoft X-box has signed on to sponsor Minnitti and he is always on the lookout for others.

“I try to take responsibility for myself,” Minnitti said. “I try to go out and raise money and I talk to people. I feel like I’m a good influence in the community. I tried to spread the word about good sports and all that stuff but it’s hard. It’s an uphill battle by every sense of the word trying to get money to fund.”

But it also takes away from valuable training time and weighs pretty heavy on his mind.

“It’s always on my mind,” Minnitti said. “I’m always thinking about it. Everyday, I don’t think a day goes by that I’m not trying to raise $100. Especially at the beginning of the month when the rent is due.”

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