The price of being a USA Olympic athlete

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BETTENDORF, Iowa-- For world ranked swimmer Alexa Harris, her home address might as well be listed as lane five.

"I'm always here, and I don't have a whole lot of time for other things," says Harris.

Two practices a day totaling more than 20 hours a week, plus a job on the side - that's what it takes to feed her passion for success in the water.

"That's the most challenging part of it all is having to get your swimming in, coaching in to make some money and then going home, and that's all you do all day," says Harris.

Harris competed last month in the Olympic swimming trials and is ranked worldwide.  But to do that, she needed a lot more than a flawless freestyle. She needed tens of thousands of dollars.

Three time Olympic gold medalist Nancy Hogshead-Makar knows firsthand how Olympic committees fund athletes.

"There's one pot of money. The administrators are out there raising money and, does it go into the pockets of the administrators, or does it go into the pocket of the athlete?" questions Hogshead-Makar.

To be eligible for the money, an athlete needs to be ranked worldwide. Nancy says, on average, in leagues like the NBA about 50 to 60-percent of money raised goes to players. But for Olympic athletes, that number is a lot lower.

"I think most people would be surprised at how little money actually goes to athletes that's raised by the Olympic committee," says Hogshead-Makar.

For example the USA Track and Field Olympic committee made just under $43M in 2015. Of that about $3.5M was paid out to the athletes. That's 8-percent, something Nancy says is misleading to donors.

But in reality, Nancy says, it's up to athletes like Harris to come up with that cash on their own if they want to compete on the Olympic level.

Fortunately for Harris, she's found support of different strokes.

"I've gotten a lot of support through our team and through our head coach. And they've really tried to give me everything they can," says Harris.

She considers herself one of the lucky ones. Knowing she has help along the way helps her breath a little easier.

"It really would be very difficult if you didn't have support," says Harris.

It's a luxury not every Olympic dreamer wakes up to.