Retail site offers help for “fringe” athletes | SteamboatToday.com

Retail site offers help for “fringe” athletes

Bryan Fletcher

— Two Olympic appearances and years on the World Cup circuit help, Taylor Fletcher said. But still, finding ways to fund a Nordic combined career can be complicated, he said.

It's a difficulty Dominic Costanzo is familiar with. A former member of the U.S. skeleton team, Costanzo lived that struggle to make ends meet and compete at an elite level.

That's part of what inspired him to help found http://www.TheFrynge.com, and he's hoping cases like those of Taylor and Bryan Fletcher — Steamboat Springs-born Nordic combined athletes — will help build the site.

"Funding can be hard to come by," said Costanzo, who slid with the U.S. team in 2014 and 2015. "Myself and a lot of my teammates, we solicited sponsorships ourselves from friends, family and companies. Some people would run crowdfunding campaigns, but I started thinking there weren't a lot of companies built around really catering to this community of athletes."

So, he decided to try to build one such company.

Frynge, a nod to athletes in fringe sports like skeleton or Nordic combined, is a retail website selling electronics and outdoor gear. It features items from $35 polarized sunglasses to $50 swim trunks to $400 headphones.

They're unique brands that can't necessarily be found on Amazon, but still, that doesn't necessarily set it apart. What Costanzo is hoping will is make the difference is the fact that 10 percent of the overall sales is donated to select "fringe" athletes.

He said someday the benefactors may rotate on a weekly basis, but for now athletes get a longer stint in the sun. Bryan and Taylor Fletcher are the featured athletes for November and December.

Participating in fundraisers certainly isn't new for the Fletchers. Something like this, however, is.

"This is really the first time we've actually done something for ourselves that isn't a benefit for the entire team," Taylor Fletcher said. "We're always trying to pull the team funding up as much as possible and bring in as much as we can, but in this, we're all on our own."

He wasn't quite sure what to expect. The site just launched in the spring, and Costanzo said previous campaigns have yielded a few hundred dollars for athletes but not exactly a world-traveling bankroll.

Still, the season is on for Nordic combined, and the bills will soon be rolling in. The first World Cup events loom Nov. 26 and 27 in Finland. The U.S. team recently changed its plans and headed for Europe earlier than expected, desperately looking for snow as warm temperatures have kept them from skiing in the United States.

"Every cent will go a long way," Taylor Fletcher said.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9