The damage

Melanie Clulow reveals the annual running costs of a top athlete

Becoming a world-class athlete takes more than just talent and hard work. It takes money. After the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, the athletes who had devoted their youth to running, jumping and throwing for Britain, came home to personal debts averaging pounds 5,000 each.

Since that embarrassment, athletics in Britain has begun to evolve from a cottage industry to a Lottery-funded medal-generating machine. Preparing a promising youngster for the Olympics can take eight years, with annual costs approaching pounds 30,000, in addition to basic living costs. There isn't enough Nike or Adidas sponsorship to go round, and with top athletes' average annual income at around pounds 15,000, attempts to ease the financial pressure could pay off on the podium in Sydney in 2000.

What follows is the the approximate annual costs for an elite, full- time track and field athlete (in this case, a middle-distance runner):

The body Membership of a gym, pounds 480; twice-monthly visits to osteopath/physiotherapist, pounds 1,150; massage (on average, three times a week), pounds 4,680; fees for an expert coach-cum-nanny-cum-mentor, pounds 4,500.

The mind consultations with sports psychologist (race-loss counselling) pounds 2,600.

The kit 10 sweatshirts, pounds 350; four tracksuits, pounds 200; two fleece jogging suits, pounds 120; 15 pairs of shorts, pounds 300; 30 T-shirts, pounds 600; 10 pairs leggings, pounds 250; two waterproof suits, pounds 100; 30 pairs of socks, pounds 90; 12 pairs training shoes pounds 720; six pairs lightweight racing shoes, pounds 390; 10 pairs spiked racing shoes, pounds 550; two large holdalls, pounds 150.

The infrastructure Airfares to foreign training camps and competitions (15 trips per year, including three weeks of altitude training in New Mexico), pounds 5,060; hotel accommodation and incidentals for foreign trips, pounds 3,091; petrol expenses for training and racing in Britain, pounds 853.

Total: pounds 26,234

(Cost does not include blood, sweat and tears; trips to the launderette; plasters for blisters)

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