With the Olympics in Tokyo capturing worldwide attention, you might wonder: How much do Olympic athletes earn? Are they paid for Gold? The answer may surprise you!

As eyes are on the 2021 Summer Games in Tokyo, the answer still surprises me.

Most Olympians earn nothing for Olympic competition. Many countries’ Olympic teams, including the United States, provide travel expenses to Olympic competitors, but even these funds don’t come directly from the government, rather a pool of private and corporate donors.

Olympic corporate sponsorships

The only direct income a few Olympians receive for their competition is from corporate sponsorships. For an A-list Olympian, like Naomi Osaka, that means plenty of dough to support herself while training and competing.

Oaska reportedly earned $55 million in endorsements over the past 12 months, along with an additional $5 million in sponsorships. Osaka, who has been billed as the “new face of tennis,” has big-brand sponsors that include Google, Louis Vuitton, and Levi’s.

And then there’s two-time Olympic gold winner, Kevin Durant. Durant has leveraged his success both with the Olympics and as a star NBA player into his own empire. He invests in a variety of companies through his venture capital firm, Thirty Five Ventures. His $75 million estimated net worth includes an estimated $40 million in sponsorships, but how he’s leveraged those sponsorships into business investments is what really makes a difference.

Medal bonus amounts for U.S. athletes

So how much do less famous competitors get paid?

All U.S. athletes can earn a “medal bonus” from the U.S. Olympic Committee for each medal won.

The Committee pays American medal winners $37,500 USD for gold, $22,500 USD for silver, and $15,000 USD for bronze medals. Some countries, though not all, pay athletes similar medal bonuses:

Medal bonuses across the globe

CountryGoldSilverBronze
Singapore744,000 USD372,000 USD286,000 USD
Hong Kong644,000 USD322,000 USD161,000 USD
Kazakhstan250,000 USD150,000 USD75,000 USD
Italy212,400 USD106,200 USD70,800 USD
Hungary167,500 USD125,600 USD95,500 USD
Russia61,000 USD38,000 USD26,000 USD
France65,000 USD25,000 USD15,000 USD
USA37,500 USD22,500 USD15,000 USD
South Africa37,000 USD19,000 USD7,000 USD
Germany22,000 USD17,000 USD11,000 USD
Canada16,000 USD12,000 USD8,000 USD
Malaysia241,000 USD72,200 USD24,100 USD
Brazil47,500 USD28,500 USD19,000 USD
Japan45,200 USD18,100 USD9,045 USD
Australia15,100 USD11,400 USD7,600 USD

Malaysia also pays monthly salaries to its medalists for life. Those salaries are RM5,000 ($1,182 USD) for gold, RM3,000 ($709 USD) for silver, and RM2,000 ($473 USD) for bronze.

There are other forms of support for U.S. Olympians, as well, including health insurance that’s provided courtesy of Elite Athlete Health Insurance. Olympic athletes can also apply for special grants, including college tuition assistance through the SOPC’s Athlete Career and Education program.

While the UK does not offer specific medal bonuses, it does devote £125 million ($162 million USD) of government and lottery funds to Olympic and Paralympic sports each year, some of which goes to annual athlete stipends. Current funding amounts by sport are listed here. UK Olympic medalists get a stipend of $36,000 USD per year to train and compete.

How much do Olympic athletes – who do not win medals – earn?

But what about athletes that compete but don’t medal? Other than the thrill of competition, they have to fight hard for other compensation.

In the US, track and field stars, each in the top 10 nationally in their events, make an average of less than $15,000 annually.

Many of the over 500 US Olympians have to find other ways to make ends meet.

Meanwhile, IOC members get paid more to watch the Olympics ($7,000 USD for 2.5 weeks of work) than most athletes will make competing in the games. According to a survey conducted by the Associated Press, 58% of Olympic athletes said they did not consider themselves financially stable. Many of the comments were similar to the following:

“Can’t train without funds, but trying to get workaround training is not easy, and [you’re] continually told if you miss sessions you don’t get selected.”

Summary

While medal bonuses are a nice way to reward (both summer and winter) athletes financially for a big, big accomplishment, many will never enjoy the steady income that comes with a corporate sponsorship, making what they endure to compete all the more impressive.

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About the author

David Weliver
Total Articles: 285
David Weliver is the founder of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues he faced during his first two decades as an adult. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.