Pro athletes given a helping hand | ParkRecord.com

Pro athletes given a helping hand

Christopher Kamrani, The Park Record

If there is a common false assumption surrounding Olympic athlete hopefuls, it’s that the whole lifestyle is one big, free party.

Snowboarder Jonathan Cheever, a Park City resident who hails from Saugus, Mass., knows that first hand. Cheever, the 2011 U.S. Snowboardercross National Champion and third-place finisher on the World Cup SBX circuit, supports his winter habit by working in plumbing and heating. He learned the trade through his father Mark, who owns a company in Saugus.

Right now, as he recovers from off-season surgery to both ankles, Cheever surfs the Internet for jobs on Craigslist or KSL.com. But the racer says he gets about only one odd job every 10 days.

"I take anything that comes along," he said. "Most recently I took a call to fix a water heater. Turns out the pilot light went out on it, so I just got it going again. It’s just pretty slow right now."

The 26-year-old Cheever isn’t the only Olympic hopeful in need of help. Paralympic hopeful Nicole Roundy, who lost her right leg above the knee warding off cancer at age eight, said it’s next to impossible to find a legitimate sponsorship for an adaptive athlete.

"Especially for adaptive snowboarders," she said. "We don’t even have an organization to pay for our international competition fees. We have to pay that. We have to pay the $400 for membership fees and the competition fees. We’re just trying to hold it together and compete. We just want to be out there and have that opportunity."

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But Cheever, Roundy and Caden Michnal, a fellow snowboarder who trains in Park City, got a big break this year. The Level Field Fund, a program that supplies grant money to athletes whose chance at success would be limited by financial difficulty, gave them their shot to continue their dream.

The Level Field Fund doled out more than $110,000 in 33 different grants to help athletes in skiing, snowboarding, swimming and judo.

According to a press release, "Led by gold medalists, including Ross Powers, Daron Rahlves, Michael Phelps, Seth Wescott, and Lenny Krayzelburg, as well as the support of Founding Partner OrthoLite, Level Field Fund provides funding to uniquely talented-athletes at critical stages of their development. Level Field Fund helps alleviate increasing costs as athletes progress towards the elite levels of training and competing, including more specialized instruction, equipment, event entry fees and related travel."

Cheever said he has been good friends with Powers for some time and the Olympic gold medalist gave his friend the good news on Christmas Eve 2010.

"I was desperate at the time," he said. "I couldn’t have competed at the first of the season.

"I know Ross really well. It seemed like the natural way to go. I knew he would help me out; he knew that I was a strong competitor."

Roundy, 25, who trains in Park City, said she found out about the Level Field Fund through adaptive program director Travis Thiele. She jumped at the opportunity to receive some sort of help and applied right away.

The program’s target goal is to focus on unique athletes. Roundy said she is atop that list.

"I’m obviously not one-in-a-thousand," she said. "How many female snowboarders do you know that only have one leg?"

She said once she learned she had been accepted by the Level Field Fund, she was elated.

"They seem to give more of an opportunity, to give a chance to keep trying and hoping for the best," she said. "It was kind of a break. It was very relieving."

Cheever is still working on getting back to 100 percent following his surgeries that took place in May. He said he is hoping to avoid any unnecessary off-season expenditures and trips outside of the country; his No. 1 priority at this point is about getting healthy enough to get back to racing on the hill.

He is living in an apartment in Pinebrook at the moment, but said he may have to move home to Saugus for a while to get some work. Mark Cheever Plumbing and Heating is busy at the moment, he said.

"Living with the parents right now could be a little stressful," he said. "Hopefully something else comes up."

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