Training full time for the Olympics is, well, a full-time job—but it's not a fruitful one: Athlete stipends can be just hundreds of dollars per month. To fund their dreams, hopefuls get creative.
1. U.S. Synchronized Swimming Team
The strategy was simple: Be seen. They performed for an elite crowd at the Super Bowl Village to solicit generous donations.
2. Nick Symmonds
The American half-miler used eBay to auction his skin as a temporary-tattoo canvas for sponsors. It worked, earning him an extra $11,100.
3. Fuahea Semi
The luger from tropical island nation Tonga legally changed his name to Bruno Banani, a German underwear company that agreed to sponsor him.
4. Ben Kjar
The U.S. wrestling hopeful capitalized on social media and persuaded one of his sponsors, LowVARates, to donate $2 for every new "Like" the company got on Facebook.
5. Khatuna Lorig
The U.S. archer earned money (and publicity) by helping Jennifer Lawrence prep for her role as shooting-savvy Katniss in the popular flick The Hunger Games.
6. James Ellington
The British sprinter sold himself on eBay for promotional purposes. He raised nearly $53,000—but the mysterious bidder never came forward.
7. Tim Morehouse
To attract the attention of sponsors, the U.S. fencer gave high-profile demonstrations to President Obama and celebrities such as Donald Trump.
A version of this article appeared in the July/August 2012 issue of Fast Company magazine.