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Chasing Olympic Dream Is Costly

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RALEIGH — Many young athletes chase an Olympic dream, but not many parents find it easy to handle the costs. A single Raleigh mother says she's spending $30,000 a year to pave the Olympic road for her 13-year-old son.

Jonathan Heyward spends hours on figure skating lessons and even more time in practice. His mother Marianne spends a large chunk of her time driving him to the rink, to competitions in other states -- and at her sewing machine making his costumes.

As she points out, budding skaters must pay for their lessons, for their costumes and for travel expenses both for themselves and their coaches.

Marianne Heyward displayed one of her son's costumes -- it cost $900 for the beads alone. Jonathan says ice time can cost $300 to $600 a month, and lessons can run from $20 to $120 an hour.

Still, both Heywards are hoping their efforts pay off at Olympic competitions in 2002 or 2006.

"I sit here and shake," Marianne Hayward said. "When I think about the years, and the dollars and the time, and the no sleep and the miles on the car, and everything. I wouldn't give it up for anything. Because I know in my heart that this what Jonathan is supposed to do.

Watching her son spin, and leap, and twirl on the ice, Marianne Heyward said she sees it as an investment, teaching a child something to do something disciplined in their lives to help them later on. Whether they get a gold medal or not it is experience they just couldn't get anywhere else."

She said she gets teary-eyed watching the Olympics because she hopes for her son to join the ranks of U.S. figure skaters one day.

One point in favor of Jonathan and all other male figure skaters: more girls are drawn to the sport so competition is much more intense; the boys' field is far less crowded.

The Heywards worry that if financial sponsors don't come to the rescue of many athletes like Jonathan the Olympic road could reach a dead end.

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Kay Miller, Web Editor

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