The Cost of Paralympic Triathlon Gold

Winning triathlon gold at the Paralympic Games is a dream that only a few will achieve. For Allysa Seely, it’s a dream she’s reached twice in Rio and Tokyo.

Paralympian Allysa Seely is draped in American flag after a gold medal finish at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.

But earning just one gold medal comes with a massive price tag. “That figure is easily in the hundreds of thousands,” Seely said during an interview with USA Triathlon in August, as she estimated her long list of expenses.

Coaching. Travel. Equipment. Sports medicine. Massage. Chiropractic. Recovery. Prosthetics.

Sport prosthetics aren’t usually covered by insurance and can run $20,000—or more. Seely typically replaces hers every season, because a custom fit is critical for performance.

Even minor changes to weight and muscle mass can disrupt how a prosthetic fits. And, like running shoes, running blades can only take so many miles before they wear out.

From Collegiate Triathlon to the Paralympics 

Seely has been navigating the challenges that come with being an adaptive athlete for nearly a decade. While competing in collegiate triathlon in 2010, Seely was diagnosed with conditions that affect her brain, spine and connective tissue.

Just seven weeks after her first surgery, she raced the USA Triathlon Collegiate National Championships. In 2012, she debuted as an elite paratriathlete and earned bronze at the ITU Paratriathlon World Championships.

She moved into a new paratriathlon category in 2013, when her left leg was amputated below the knee due to complications and increased foot spasticity. But Seely continued to thrive, winning five gold medals on the elite ITU circuit in 2014 and two world championship titles in 2015 and 2016.

Today, Seely is the first female two-time Paralympic gold medalist. She made history by winning gold in paratriathlon’s debut at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games, and again this past August as she successfully defended her gold at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.

U.S. Paralympians Rely on Donors and Sponsors, Not Government Funding

Paralympians in other countries typically receive government funding for their expenses, but this isn’t the case in the U.S. Seely relies on donors, sponsors and side work to cover her training and racing costs.

This means she might have to forgo advantages athletes in other countries take for granted. Wind tunnel testing is expensive but essential for non-drafting elites. It impacts aerodynamic decisions like bike fit, wheelsets and helmet choice and even minor details like water bottles.

“A lot of times, if the funds aren’t available, those are the things we just go without that our international competitors typically don’t, because they are funded by their government and receive full salaries every year,” Seely explained. “Competing for their nation is their job.”

That’s why it’s so important to have organizations like USA Triathlon Foundation, who fill the gap for Olympians and Paralympians like Seely.

“We are so grateful for all the help we get from donors and supporters,” she said.

How You Can Support Our Mission

Supporting elites is just one part of our mission at the USA Triathlon Foundation. We also:

  • Encourage adaptive athletes to get involved in multisport.
  • Introduce kids to the healthy, active lifestyle that sport provides through Tri for Change and youth programming.
  • Support key initiatives like diversity and inclusion.

Your tax-deductible donation helps us make a difference for the wide range of athletes we support, whether they’re a Paralympian like Seely or an aspiring youth athlete who lives in your neighborhood.

You can make your donation online; via mail to USA Triathlon Foundation, 5825 Delmonico Dr. Ste. 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80919; or by calling us at 719-884-5600.

USA Triathlon Foundation
USA Triathlon Foundation

Support the USA Triathlon Foundation

The USA Triathlon Foundation works to provide funds for many different programs and initiative. Your support will ensure we reach our goals!
Donate to the USA Triathlon Foundation
Donate to the USA Triathlon Foundation
As a supporter of the USA Triathlon Foundation, you can feel an extra sense of pride knowing your contribution will help introduce triathlon to underserved young athletes, inspiring paratriathletes and support Olympic hopefuls.
USA Triathlon Foundation Current Iniatives
USA Triathlon Foundation Current Iniatives
The Foundations many different ways to support the multisport community. Learn more on what we are doing!