Some US Olympians enlist in order to make it to the Games

Feb 10, 2022, 10:04 AM | Updated: Feb 11, 2022, 1:26 am
United States' Ben Loomis competes during the cross-country skiing portion of the individual Gunder...

United States' Ben Loomis competes during the cross-country skiing portion of the individual Gundersen normal hill/10km event at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022, in Zhangjiakou, China. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

(AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

ZHANGJIAKOU, China (AP) — Nordic combined is a niche sport, even athletes in the discipline acknowledge, leaving Olympians who participate in the mix of ski jumping and cross-country skiing searching for options to fund their dreams.

Unlike some countries, the U.S. government does not pay Americans to go for gold. That leaves the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee to allocate its limited financial resources to assist athletes with the best chances of earning spots on the podium.

That does not include Nordic combined.

To make ends meet, Ben Loomis and Jasper Good, U.S. Army specialists, enlisted to get pay and benefits as part of the World Class Athlete Program.

“It’s pretty special to go to the Olympics and represent the U.S. as both an athlete and a soldier,” Loomis said. “I don’t think there’s anything better than that.”

Without the program, Good might be back home in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, working for a living instead of competing at the Beijing Games.

“I don’t know if I’d be skiing, quite frankly,” he said. “It’s given me the ability to make this a professional career. … It has opened so many doors and created way more opportunities for me.”

The duo are among five from the Army program competing this year, joining Frank Del Duca and Hakeem Abdul-Saboor, both specialists and on the bobsled team, and luger Emily Sweeney, who is a sergeant.

“I think it’s the biggest honor and privilege that I can have,” Sweeney said. “I’m so grateful to be a part of two amazing groups, right? We have WCAP and soldiers that comprise that group and then we also have Team USA, which is another incredible group of human beings.”

Airman 1st Class Kelly Curtis, who competes in skeleton, is part of the Air Force’s athlete program.

“That has made all the difference between being able to focus on my training runs and not trying to make ends meet, not having to choose between another training run or being able to eat a decent meal that night,” she said.

The current athletes are following the same path that many have over the last quarter-century.

Since the Army’s program started in 1997, about 60 Winter and Summer Olympians have taken advantage of the opportunity. Each goes through basic training, just like any other soldier, and is required to stay up to date on responsibilities such as weapons qualification.

The athletes receive the same pay and benefits, including a housing allowance, as other soldiers on active duty.

“I wouldn’t be able to do it without WCAP and I am extremely grateful for that,” Abdul-Saboor said.

Good said he made a six-year commitment to the Army, adding he may be in the military even longer than that.

“I absolutely plan on staying in the Army for a while after I’m done with WCAP,” he said.

While the Olympians make a lot of personal sacrifices to chase their dreams athletically, they also have to balance their commitment to the military.

In the end, though, they say it’s worth it.

“Our sport is pretty niche in the U.S., so it’s pretty much up to us to fund that — whether fundraise for yourself or you work for yourself,” Good said. “Quite honestly, (the program) changed the game for me. It opened up new doors, new opportunities.”


AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.


Follow Larry Lage at More AP Olympics: and

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Arizona Coyotes forward Barrett Hayton, left, collides with Anaheim Ducks defenseman John Klingberg...
Associated Press

Drop the puck: What to know about the 2022-23 NHL season

The NHL is back to normal with the regular season stretching from October through the middle of April before the two-month thrill ride that is the chase for the Stanley Cup. Over that time, teams are scheduled to play a total of 1,312 games over 189 days, starting with Nashville and San Jose facing off […]
1 day ago
Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) and Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) battle for t...
Associated Press

LeBron in Vegas? He makes an expansion pitch to Adam Silver

LAS VEGAS (AP) — LeBron James came to Las Vegas for a preseason game. And a pitch. James, who has spoken in the past about wanting to eventually own an NBA franchise — with Las Vegas on his mind — sent a crystal-clear message to Commissioner Adam Silver on Wednesday night, reminding him of his […]
1 day ago
FILE - Dallas Stars' Jason Robertson skates during the third period of an NHL hockey game against t...
Associated Press

Stars sign 41-goal scorer Robertson to $31M, 4-year deal

FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Jason Robertson has signed a $31 million, four-year contract with the Dallas Stars after the young 40-goal scorer missed the first two weeks of training camp. The Stars announced the deal late Wednesday night, after their exhibition game in Denver, only a week before the regular season opener Oct. 13 at […]
1 day ago
The ski slopes are almost devoid of snow at the Tūroa ski field, on Mt. Ruapehu, New Zealand on Se...
Associated Press

Missing snow puts famed New Zealand ski areas on precipice

TUROA SKI AREA, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand’s Turoa ski area is usually a white wonderland at this time of year, its deep snowpack supporting its famed spring skiing. This season, it’s largely a barren moonscape, with tiny patches of snow poking out between vast fields of jagged volcanic boulders. The ski area was […]
1 day ago
FILE - Kansas City Royals pitching coach Cal Eldred in the seventh inning of a baseball game, May 1...
Associated Press

Royals fire manager Mike Matheny after 65-97 end to season

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred were fired by the Kansas Cty Royals on Wednesday night, shortly after the struggling franchise finished the season 65-97 with a listless 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians. The Royals had exercised their option on Matheny’s contract for 2023 during spring training, […]
1 day ago
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) blocks a shot by Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges (25...
Associated Press

James scores 23 points, but not enough as Suns defeat Lakers

LAS VEGAS (AP) — LeBron James flashed his midseason form Wednesday night, scoring 23 points in 18 minutes before the Phoenix Suns beat the Los Angeles Lakers 112-115. James, who missed all seven of his shots in Los Angeles’ loss to Sacramento on Monday, was much more aggressive with the Lakers playing without Anthony Davis. […]
1 day ago
Some US Olympians enlist in order to make it to the Games