By Rory Carroll

NEW YORK, April 16 (Reuters) – LA28 and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) on Tuesday announced a program to help Olympians further their education and transition into the workforce after retirement.

The initiative will help connect athletes to career coaching, tuition grants and other services when they step out of the Olympic spotlight and into the “real world,” a panel told reporters at a media summit on Tuesday.

“One of the only things that all Olympians and Paralympians have in common, because every journey is unique, is they all will retire at some point,” said Rebecca Biestman, chief brand & communications officer with Guild, the platform that will provide the services.

“We are trying to give them a light at the end of the tunnel for what’s next … we like to say we hope it is the softest landing it can be.”

More than 145 athletes have created profiles and 32 have submitted applications to the learning program since the initiative was shared with them earlier this month, Biestman said.

“Any athlete who says that the transition is easy is lying,” said Meghan O’Leary, an Olympic rower who competed at the 2016 and 2020 Games.

“It is something that every athlete experiences and it hits different, but what makes it especially hard is that it is not a reality until it is.

“There isn’t space in the athlete’s mind to believe that is going to happen because you have to be so focused on the task at hand.

“That’s why having support systems and resources like Guild is so important.” (Reporting by Rory Carroll in New York; Editing by Ken Ferris)