South Korean swimming superstar Tae Hwan Park is headed to Australia for a three-month training camp ahead of the National Sports Festival in Incheon.
According to South Korean newspaper Arirang, however, it is not the federation, prize money, or even his sponsors who will send him and four of his countrymates to the St. Peter’s Western Swim Club to train under the legendary Michael Bohl. It will instead be his fans, who combined to donate 70,000,000 South Korean Won, or roughly $60,000 US Dollars ($54,000 Australian Dollars), to pay for the trip.
Park, who is a sporting icon in his native country, is skipping this summer’s World Championships in Barcelona, meaning that he will not be able to defend his world title in the 400 free. His stardom is huge in his native country, yet he has still been forced to spend his own money to support his training, and he reached out to his fans to help him continue to move forward in the sport (at 23 years old). He’s the most successful South Korean swimmer in history now with four Olympic medals (1 gold, three silver) to his name.
This is not the first swimmer who we’ve seen have great success with this crowd-funding strategy. American swimmer Anthony Ervin, in the fall, raised $10,000 via an Indiegogo fundraiser to pay for his travel on the FINA World Cup circuit.
Swimmers often have huge brand power in their local swimming communities, but for one reason or another (we could fill a whole post with reasons why), they are unable to use traditional middle-men (federations, meets, sponsors) to turn that brand power into real dollars.