How much Olympic Athletes Earn for Winning Medals

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How much Olympic Athletes Earn for Winning Medals

August 16
13:28 2021

A long time ago in a more altruist world, Olympic athletes were not allowed to accept money of any kind as an endorsement or prize. That changed in the 1970s, and then again in 1986 when the IOC began allowing professional athletes to compete. Today, Olympians get compensated for winning medals, but that compensation varies from country to country. 
 
It’s a sign of the times really. The cost of living has gone up and training for the Olympics can cost millions for the world’s top athletes. Forcing them to spend years paying off debt after the Olympics is not much of an incentive to get them to compete. Training is now subsidized, healthcare and lodging are provided, and prizes are offered for winning. 
 
As for actually getting to the Olympics, most athletes must do at least some fundraising to cover their travel expenses. U.S. badminton player Zhang Beiwen used crowdfunding to finance her trip. Others rely on donations from family, friends, and businesses.
 
Smaller Countries Give Larger Prizes

The country of Singapore pays athletes $1 million Singapore dollars ($737,000 USD) for a gold medal. The country of Kazakhstan pays $250,000. Malaysia offers $236,000. The United States? Our athletes get $37,500 for a gold medal. Based on each nation’s population and GDP, that seems like an odd disparity—however, it’s not when you consider other benefits. 
 
U.S. athletes receive the best training in the world, free medical care, and college tuition money. They’re also more likely to get commercial endorsements. Tennis star Naomi Osaka (born in Japan, raised in U.S., represents Japan in Olympics) has already made $55 million in endorsements, and she got knocked out this year in the third round. Knowing her competitive nature, the money won’t offset the pain of that. 
 
Another factor to consider in Olympian compensation is the size of the teams each country fields. The United States has fielded more than 600 athletes in Tokyo this year. Singapore has 23. When viewed from that perspective, $37,500 for a gold medal isn’t all that bad. Of course, the athletes might disagree on that. 
 
Professional Athletes are Already Getting Paid

Kevin Durant gets paid $37 million a year to play professional basketball for the Brooklyn Nets, and he’s not even the highest-paid athlete on Team USA. Damian Lillard averages $44 million a year. These guys could easily play in the Olympics for free. $37,500 is basically pocket change for them, so don’t think for a moment that they do it for the money. 
 
On the flip side of that, those endorsement deals that come from a big Olympic performance are worth several million dollars. Michael Phelps, winner of 23 gold medals in swimming, earned $1.9 million in prize money during his career. Endorsements have put his current net worth at $80 million. That’s a big boost. 
 
To put that number in perspective, Justin Rose, the UK professional golfer who won gold in 2016, has a net worth of just $40 million. One can only wonder if that would be much higher if he was a U.S. athlete. The big endorsement opportunities seem to be clearly in the hands of the Americans. Just ask Serena Williams — she’s worth $225 million.

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