As he looked at the clock following the 1500 meter long track race, Flaim says he remembers thinking to himself, "'Oh, my goodness, I've just skated faster than anyone else ever in history at this distance.'"
Flaim's time in that race was eclipsed by a fellow competitor minutes later, earning him a silver medal for his skate. But after competing in a total of four Olympic Games and winning two silver medals, Flaim says that those minutes after he beat that record still stay with him today.
"It's pretty special," Flaim says. "I will always be able to say that for about 12 minutes I went faster than anyone, because I was beaten by 6/100ths by an East German [Andre Hoffmann] about two races later."
Today, Flaim, the two-time Olympic silver medalist, is established as a financial advisor with Ameriprise Financial team Flaim, Chace & Associates based out of Portsmouth, N.H. Flaim began his career as an advisor in 2002 following a stint as a color analyst with NBC that brought him to the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic games earlier that same year.
That transition to another profession is one that most Olympic competitors face following their athletic careers. Like all athletes, it puts pressure on them to make the most of any wealth that they attain when their physical talents are at their peak. For a select few, like Flaim, it serves as inspiration to become a financial advisor and help other athletes and clients find their financial footing.
This year's summer Olympic games in London is expected to draw a total of 10,500 athletes in 26 different sports including basketball, soccer, gymnastics, swimming, diving and tennis, just to name a few.
Like the previous 47 Olympic Games that came before this year's event, the stories of athletic triumph and failure will dominate the headlines. But the athletes' stories of wealth will play out quietly behind the scenes, from how they fund their Olympic dreams to how they ultimately find a second career.
While growing up in southeastern Massachusetts, Flaim says he was an avid hockey and soccer player who got involved in speed skating by chance. His motivation came while watching speed skater Eric Heiden win five gold medals at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Flaim was 12-years-old at that time, and watching Heiden's victory immediately convinced him that that's what he wanted to do. Two years later, Flaim moved away from home and his family at the age of 14 to train with a coach in Milwaukee, Wis. Flaim remembers that those early training days were not easy.
"The first year I got out there I got creamed. I was so bad I think I only beat one person," Flaim says. The experience tempted him to quit, but he decided not to give up on his dream that easily.
Two years later, when Flaim was 16, he made the national team as a junior, which Flaim says is one of the happiest moments in his entire competitive life. Nabbing the slot was an accomplishment because there were only three juniors on the team. The achievement meant that Flaim could attend a two-week training camp in Colorado, where he worked with Heiden's coach Dianne Holum, and go to Europe that fall for early season training.
The accomplishment also helped set Flaim's path to the Olympic Games. He was 20-years-old when he competed in the Calgary games, where he won that first silver medal and came in fourth in three other races. He won a second silver medal at the 1994 Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway, for speed skating the 5000 meter short track relay. His last time competing at the Olympics came in 1998 in Nagano, Japan, where he carried the American flag in the opening ceremonies.
Flaim built financial support for his speedskating career along the way. When he was first starting out, Flaim says he was lucky his parents could afford to pay for boarding and coaching in Wisconsin. But that also meant plenty of effort on Flaim's part. He regularly made his own lunches. Then, he would walk from the house of the family he was staying with to practice, then to school, then back to practice and finally home in the bitter winter cold. That rigorous schedule helped Flaim develop his work ethic, he says.
Later on when Flaim was in college, he attracted his first sponsor with the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame, in part because his father was born in Italy. Other sponsors he had along the way included business owners and brands like Rollerblade and Oakley.