KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — As she walked beside the Mzymta River on Sunday, Megan McJames was wearing the same Olympic gear as the other U.S. Alpine skiers who have reached the Sochi Games.
But her journey to the mountains above Sochi has been distinct from those of her teammates: more solitary, more complex and, of late, much more expensive.
“With the prep period included, I’m going to spend this season about $80,000,” McJames said.
After being cut from the U.S. team after failing to meet the qualification criteria in 2012, McJames has been independent the past two seasons.
That means she must rely on sponsors, private donors and her own powers of pluck and persuasion to cover her own expenses and those of her ski technician, Pat Andrews.
Even excess-baggage costs add up.
“We’re traveling with eight to 10 pairs of skis, and sometimes 12, and two toolboxes of mine and a big tuning table and three or four clothing bags that seem to grow as the trips go on,” he said.
McJames, 26, of Park City, Utah, finished 30th in the giant slalom Tuesday and is expected to compete in the slalom.
A 2010 Olympian, McJames lost her sponsor, then broke her left heel the following year. She has had limited success on the World Cup circuit.
McJames formed an independent team for the 2012-13 season with two other racers. They focused on the North American circuit, and McJames ended up winning the overall women’s title, which guaranteed her a place in the World Cup this season and a potential pathway to the Olympics.
She then formed her own team with her boyfriend, Cody Marshall, a former World Cup racer, serving as coach.
McJames said Internet-based crowdfunding had helped cover “a small chunk” of her budget.
“I found a lot of donors who just believed in going after your dreams and stepped up and helped me,” she said, “and after that, the story kind of spiraled.”