On Wednesday morning, Jake Arnold was working on the home he recently purchased in Tucson, Ariz. He’s remodeling the kitchen and changing out the light fixtures.

“I work at the Home Depot,” Arnold said with a laugh. “I figure I should know how to do some of these things.”

Arnold, 25, a Maria Carrillo graduate and an alternate on the 2008 U.S. Olympic decathlon team, is indeed working at the Home Depot through its Olympic Job Program. But not for much longer.

The Home Depot announced last week that it is ending its 16-year run as an Olympic sponsor. The company had offered Olympic hopefuls full-time pay and benefits for a flexible 20-hour work week. Arnold, who appeared in a national commercial for Home Depot this summer, is one of 98 employees in the program. He will work at the store until March 2.

The end of the partnership presents a hurdle for Arnold, who is training for the 2012 Olympics.
To help with the transition, USA Track and Field will give Arnold a $5,000 stipend and medical insurance until August. In addition, he is in the midst of negotiations with Asics on a two-year shoe contract. It won’t be enough to pay all the bills ” Arnold will need another part-time job ” but he considers himself fortunate.

“I’m actually really lucky,” Arnold said. “Without (the Asics contract) it would be really interesting trying to make it work.”

After an extended layoff from competition, Arnold will begin his 2009 indoor season at the Lumberjack Invitational this weekend in Flagstaff, Ariz.

He is training with an eye on the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in June in Eugene, Ore. The top three finishers will represent the U.S. at the World Championships in Berlin in August.

Arnold is ranked fifth in the nation behind fourth-ranked Ashton Eaton, the defending NCAA champion who is a junior at the University of Oregon. The ranking is a source of some amusement to Arnold, whose personal-best score last year was 8,130, eight points better than Eaton’s top mark.

“I guess he’s better than me,” said Arnold, a former walk-on at Arizona who became a two-time NCAA champion. “But that’s OK. I’m used to being the underdog.”