It was bound to happen in these tough financial times. Home Depot Inc., has killed their Olympic athlete program that gave hopefuls a part-time job, flexible hours, and full-time pay with benefits so they could train.

Home Depot started the program 16 years ago to support the U.S. and Puerto Rico Olympic and Paralympic teams. The Wall Street Journal reported that the sponsorship amounted to about $15 - $20 million commitment over four years. Athletes were required to work about 1,000 hours a year to maintain a salary of about $25,000.

Several athletes working at the Utah Home Depot stores will be mighty disappointed. The program helped skier Jillian Vogtli; bobsledders Ivan Radcliff, Valerie Fleming, and Shauna Ruhbock; Tristan Gale in the skeleton; and speed skaters Jondon Trevena and Derek Parra. Current athletes can keep their flexible part-time shifts and benefits, but they will be paid for only the hours they work and no new athletes will be accepted into the program.

Home Depot informed the U.S. Olympic Committee and the nearly 100 athletes of their decision earlier this month. Home Depot is the first top-level sponsor to bail on the USOC since General Motors Corp. left in 2007.