In June, when Walter Dix, Justin Gatlin and Khadevis Robinson line up at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., they will be sprinting for more than a spot in London. Each will be trying to win a bet that could reap thousands of dollars for charity.
The trio has partnered with Charity Bets, a nonprofit that has athletes set goals and then allows donors to wager on them. In the case of Dix (below), donors can give a certain amount to his charity if he finishes in the top three, and less if he falls short.
The program started with Dave Maloney, 32, and Marc Hodulich, 31, two old Auburn track teammates and each the son of a breast cancer survivor. Looking for a new way to raise money for cancer research—and capitalizing on what Maloney calls "a culture of betting and assessing risk"—the pair began taking similar bets in 2009 for a Wall Street athletic competition.
In November they took the idea mainstream, as Charity Bets, and last weekend it paid off as U.S. Olympic marathon trials winner Meb Keflezighi earned more than $1,000 for his Meb Foundation (page 27). It was the first major event for Charity Bets, which aims to expand to include team sports. "I think we're on the cusp [of something big]," Maloney says of the organization.
Bet on it.