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Athletes benefit from "Raise Our Flag"

By Amy Rosewater | May 28, 2012, 9 a.m. (ET)

In just about two months, Corey Cogdell will be taking part in the Opening Ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

But she knows she would not be anywhere close to crossing the Atlantic if it weren’t for funding she received from the U.S. Olympic Committee.

“Definitely not,” said Cogdell, who earned a bronze medal in trap shooting at the Beijing Games four years ago and qualified for a spot in London this May (pending nomination by the U.S. Olympic Committee). “I participate in one of the most expensive sports in the Olympic Games. It costs almost $5,000 a month just for targets and ammunition. I train a minimum of six days a week so I can’t have another job.”

Although she does have several sponsorships, Cogdell and other U.S. athletes also receive funding for travel and other expenses from the USOC, which does not receive government funding. One program that the USOC created to help generate extra funding for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes is called “Raise Our Flag,” and fans can purchase a stitch toward an American flag that will be used by the U.S. Olympic Team in London.

Each stitch costs $12 and to date, more than 8,500 stitches have been purchased. Donations will be used to finance housing, training and equipment for elite U.S. athletes. For more information, click on: raiseourflag.org.

“I think that’s a cool program,” Cogdell said.

Cogdell did not reach her Olympic goals with financial ease. When Cogdell was 9, her mom died when riding a bike and was hit by a car. Her father, Richard, quit his job as a heavy equipment operator the next day to raise Cogdell and her older sister. Their mom had homeschooled them, so, after her death, Cogdell’s dad took over that role, too. When Cogdell was 14, she took on a full-time job working at a local shooting range so she could continue her own training.

“From a very young age, I learned that if you want something, you have to work for it,”  Cogdell said.

The U.S. Olympic Committee is trying to make that a little easier.

“We’re using an army of athletes to help us get the message out,” said USOC Chief Development Officer Janine Alfano Musholt. “It is so amazing to see the athletes participate but also members of the public. A second grade class pooled its funds together, and so did some of our USA Basketball players.”

The “Raise Our Flag”  campaign has attracted attention from some big names: Matt Damon, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, organizer of the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games Peter Ueberroth and 2008 Olympic  basketball gold medalist LeBron James.

The USOC enlisted several athletes -- Olympic archer Brady Ellison, Olympic champion wrestler Henry Cejudo, Paralympic track and field medalist Lex Gillette, women’s boxer Queen Underwood among them -- to participate in public service announcements that will be featured on various NBC Universal broadcasts to promote the campaign.

“I love the idea of ‘Raise Our Flag,’ and I am so thankful for the USOC,” said Sarah Robles, a weightlifter who qualified to compete in London pending official nomination. “Things are OK now, and my funds are doing all right, but it can be hard.”

Olympic silver medalist gymnast Jonathan Horton said he doubts he could work a full-time job and train for the upcoming Olympic Games.

“I honestly don’t think so,” Horton said. “The amount of training that I do, no.”

In addition to his training, his wife is in her second year of medical school, which keeps her fairly well occupied.

Lindsey Berg, a silver medalist setter for the U.S. Olympic volleyball team in Beijing, first heard about the ‘Raise Our Flag’ program at the 2012 Team USA Media Summit, which was held in May in Dallas. She plans on participating in the program and said she has seen a huge difference between how American athletes are treated compared to athletes from other countries.

“I have been able to play with girls from around the world and on other teams,” said Berg, who has played overseas in addition to traveling with Team USA. “They get nothing compared to what we’re provided. The support we get here is not like it is anywhere else.

“This is our job. We play all year round so this is our job. We don’t have days off. We need this.”

Kim Rhode, a four-time Olympic medalist shooter who was the first American to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team in London, said several of her friends bought stitches.

Some of those friends might actually see the flag in its completion in London.

“I think I’ve got about 15 people going over there to support me,” Rhode said. “Everyone’s getting into the spirit this time. Even my husband’s mom is coming and she’s never traveled outside of the country before.”

Amy Rosewater is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.

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