It’s an unfortunate truth that you’ll be all too aware of: sometimes being among the best in the world at your chosen sport isn’t quite enough to pay the bills. That’s why many athletes work regular day jobs alongside punishing training regimes to help fund their sporting dreams. Sometimes that may seem like a tough ask, so for some inspiration, we take a look at what three elite athletes – all of whom competed at Rio 2016 – do when they’re not striving for medals.

  • It’s possible to put the hours into training and plan for your career at the same time
  • It’s never too early or late to start thinking about and working towards your next steps
  • Employers are willing to be flexible and support you in pursuing your sporting aims
  • Discover what resources are available to help kick-start your planning

Nathalie Marchino (Colombia), rugby sevens 

The rugby star represented Colombia at Rio 2016, having previously played for the USA at the Women’s Rugby World Cup Sevens. And when she wasn’t dodging tackles on the field, she was busy making deals in the boardroom for Twitter. The 37-year-old worked as a sales account manager in San Francisco for the tech giant and took a five-month leave of absence to prepare for Rio. The balance is not easy, but rewards are great.

I always wanted to compete at a high level, and I wanted to find something that would help me finance that

“I always wanted to compete at a high level, and I wanted to find something that would help me finance that,” says Nathalie, who has since joined Figma from Twitter, demonstrating her outstanding employability. “Juggling work and rugby has been part of my reality for so long, [but] going to the Olympic Games makes it all worth it.”

Lanni Marchant (Canada), athletics

Lanni competed in both the 10,000m and the marathon in Rio – becoming the first Canadian woman to do so at an Olympic Games – but despite the thousands of training miles she had to complete ahead of the Games, she still dedicated plenty of time to her career as criminal defence attorney for a law firm in the United States. She stresses that it’s important to look to the future and consider life after sport, even if it’s daunting.

“Running is my priority,” says Lanni. “But there’s a time limit on being able to run at this level, and I’m well aware of that. I really want to keep practising law because that’s what I’m educated in, and I’ll need something to keep me busy for when I retire.”

Paul Adams (Australia), shooting

After narrowly missing out on a place at London 2012, Paul considered quitting shooting to pursue studies and work. But after vowing to continue pursuing his Olympic dream, the now 26-year-old went on to enjoy the best of both worlds, qualifying for and competing at Rio 2016 while training to become a registered nurse. He began working at a hospital in Brisbane shortly before the Games and had his employer’s full backing to balance work and shooting.

They were very supportive and they worked around my training schedule at most times

“They were very supportive and they worked around my training schedule at most times,” says Paul.

Are you an elite athlete interested in pursuing employment while continuing to compete at the highest level? Go to Career+ to access free-to-use, online resources on education, employment, life skills and more advice on balancing competition and career. And for more inspirational examples of athletes balancing work and sport, check out the Olympic Channel series Day Jobs.

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