U.S. slopestyle skier Keri Herman can't get sponsors, skis in broken boots and borrowed pants

Fourth-Place Medal

Winter Olympics athletes are often not household names, performing in sports with passionate, but small fan bases. However, it's almost always the case that the top athletes within those smaller communities get a lot of support. Olympians can usually expect to find sponsors for their gear, at the very least, and maybe find a few other sponsorships, too.

[Photos: What do different countries pay Olympians?]

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Within this world, then, Team USA's Keri Herman is something of an oddity. The resident of Breckenridge, Colorado competed in the first-ever Olympic women's slopestyle skiing competition on Tuesday. While Herman did not come close to the podium with a 10th-place finish, she is an accomplished slopestyle skier with strong finishes in many international tournaments. However, Herman also struggles to get sponsors and has relied on her teammates for some of her gear. From Jason Blevins for The Denver Post:

Upon winning a spot on the first-ever Olympic women's slopestyle team, Breckenridge's Keri Herman went looking for sponsors.

After a fruitless week, the technical skier with a vast bag of spinning trickery went looking for a job.

"I can't get a sponsor. I can't get an agent. I've been told — over and over — I'm too old. Everyone says they don't care about the Olympics and they want to base their team around younger athletes," said the 30-year-old, declining to name the uninterested sponsors. "It's so frustrating for me because I can win. I can do everything that I should be doing as a pro and I'm struggling. It's so hurtful and it's so hard. I need to find another job."

Herman is wearing brand new ski pants she poached from 15-year-old Maggie Voisin, her slopestyle teammate, and the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic Team. Voisin is swimming in new sponsors: Monster, Oakley, Pop Tarts. Herman — who counts Breckenridge and Scott as her two sponsors — rides in broken ski boots. Her jacket and pants are from different makers, a rarity in professional skiing. [...]

"This isn't about sponsors though," she said. "I'm here because I absolutely love skiing. Every day I think to myself, 'Wow, this is so great. I am so lucky.' Sure I need a second job to support myself but I'm here because I love skiing and I could not think of any other way to be happier."

[Photos: Volunteers smuggle stray dogs out of Sochi]

Herman's backstory is even more remarkable. A native of Minnesota, her first love was hockey (she also plans to cheer on high school friend and Team USA captain Zach Parise during Olympic men's hockey games). Herman didn't ski for the first time until she was 21 years old, and pursued a career in the sport despite earning two degrees from the University of Denver. As noted on her NBC athlete profile page, she works two jobs at a sporting goods store and fondue restaurant to support her athletic career.

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We often hear of Olympians whose path to the games was fraught with complications, but Herman is one athlete who's still dealing with these issues at the pinnacle of her sport. She might not be one of the stars of Sochi, but her story makes her mere presence at the Olympics pretty amazing. Here's hoping she can get some sponsors soon.

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Eric Freeman is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at efreeman_ysports@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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