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Curiously auto racing has been dealing with this for a while, especially in
the disciplines where women athletes compete on parity with their male
counterparts, and in the case of some more equipment dominated tiers of the
sport it's not uncommon to see a 'good' woman driver end up posting better
results than far more skilled but less photogenic counterparts (for a case
study, just see how immensely skilled a driver Sarah Fisher is, and realize
that Danica Patrick is the name everybody knows, and it has more to do with
her willingness to show up for a cover shoot as comfortably as a centerfold).
Since being able to 'go professional' in most of the extreme sport categories
isn't actually directly related to success in feeder series, this is a very
real instance where aspiring athletes who don't have the resources or genetics
to create funds are effectively losing the opportunity to become professional
athletes because the sponsorship money and hardware needed to actually take
that shot at the big time are being diverted to high profile athletes that are
functionally lifestyle models by occupation.
Athletes already competing at the top level aren't the ones who are getting
pushed out by this trend - it's the really talented semi-pro athletes
scratching by to make it to support series events that are seeing the funding
dry up, because that's the sort of money companies are looking to spend on the
rest of the 'family of supported athletes' after their title athletes, and the
unfortunate result, as seen in the top levels of motorsport, is that once the
financial support from sponsors for the support series and ladder up to the
professional level starts to wither, only athletes from well-to-do families,
or well-connected within the industry are ever presented with the opportunity
to participate at the elite level from a resources standpoint, which
absolutely is the wrong direction for a sport built around grassroots support
and weekend warriors as the financial base.
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