Stars of 2012 head for the Olympic job centre

After the gold rush most GB athletes are struggling to make ends meet

Tom Daley ended his mentoring role in the ITV1 diving reality series Splash! last night, tucking a six-figure cheque into his Speedos. For his erstwhile synchro sidekick Pete Waterfield, reality is somewhat different. He is struggling to keep his head above water, having lost his UK Sport funding.

A month shy of his 32nd birthday Waterfield, veteran of four Olympics and a silver medallist in 2004, says he can no longer afford to stay in the sport. "I have to pay a mortgage, two kids to feed as well as a car to run," he said. "Without the funding I can't do any of that. The only way I can carry on diving after 20 years in the sport is if I find funding from another source. Otherwise I'll be looking for another job."

He is not alone. For so many who took part in London 2012 the only real legacy is a daily visit to the job centre. No pots of gold for them. Which is why some 150 Olympians and Paralympians thronged Reading's Madejski Stadium last month, trying to find out if there is a working life after sport at an inaugural Athlete Career Fair, set up for those who wish to keep competing as well as the ones who have retired.

The fair, a joint initiative by the British Olympic Association, the British Paralympic Association, UK Sport, the English Institute of Sport and the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust, is a continuation of the EIS Performance Lifestyle programme, which has been running since 2004 to help athletes find work after retiring from sport. Over the past four-year cycle, nearly 100 athletes have been offered part-time placements or internships with companies such as O2, Cadbury and InterContinental Hotels Group.

Bringing together athletes and prospective employers was Georgina Harland, a modern pentathlon bronze medallist and now a sports engagement manager for the BOA. "It resonates with what I experienced as an athlete when I went through the same transition stage," she said. "For the majority of athletes, when the funding stops and you step into the big wide world, it is a daunting prospect. So far the feedback has been very positive, lots of interviews have been arranged – but no job offers as yet. These things take time."

Team GB volleyball player Andy Pink has been lucky, starting a job with PR company Brazil after searching since October. "It's tough to get your foot in the door in the current economic climate," he said. "I stopped keeping count after 20 interviews. It's good to have an Olympics in your CV, but when you turn up all they want to talk about is the Olympic Games."

The American-born Pink, who has played volleyball since he was 16, has now retired at 30 with the future of the sport uncertain because of the recent funding cuts. "I'd had enough of living out of a suitcase and getting paid next to nothing," he admitted. "I could have made more money driving a minicab around London. Most of us went into debt every time we played for the national team."

His female GB colleague Rachel Laybourne, also 30, knows all about debt; she still has to pay off around £10,000. Since London she can no longer afford to play her sport at elite level even though she has finally landed a job in an Essex school teaching volleyball, a role she got through "a friend of a friend of a friend".

"But I'm financially crippled, I haven't paid off a penny yet," she said. "When I got my first pay packet and paid for my accommodation and food I didn't have anything left. Every member of our team was in debt, constantly borrowing money. I was absolutely staggered by the number of athletes at the careers fair. I didn't realise so many were out of work and I was very thankful I had a job.

"I know of one guy in the men's team, Kieran O'Malley, who's written dozens of letters and has been in and out of job centres every day since the Games. He's not got any further than a second interview."

The EIS scheme helped Ben Hawes, 32, a former GB Olympic hockey captain, to get a job in marketing with the hotel group IHG, but he said: "A massive number of those who competed in 2012 are struggling to find work. I speak to guys in the hockey team regularly who are up against it. It's probably only one per cent of Olympians who can make a living on the back of the Games; even some guys with medals can find it difficult when you've been put on a pedestal and suddenly you are back in the real world. There has to be a big swallowing of pride to start at the bottom of a career ladder."

Will Waterfield be able to climb the ladder to the high board again? For him, pride comes before a dive: "I'll never go on the dole, no way. I'm a fighter. I'll find a way to survive."

Suggested Topics
News
Jennifer Lawrence was among the stars allegedly hacked
peopleActress and 100 others on 'master list' after massive hack
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor