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How Much Do Olympic Athletes Make?

How Much Do Olympic Athletes Make

Being an Olympic athlete takes years of dedication and tireless training before you make it to the games, but is it financially worth all that hard work?

In this article, I’m going to examine how much Olympic athletes make, and the real truth for the majority may shock you.

I will look at how much Olympians get paid to appear at the games and how different nations support their athletes, including bonuses for medals and financial support for training. I’ll also take a look at some of the top earners and how they really make most of their income and compare that with the less successful performers at the games.

So without further ado, let’s find out How Much Do Olympic Athletes Make?

how much do olympic athletes make

International Olympic Committee (IOC) Payments

Every four years, athletes from all over the world compete for medals at either the summer or winter Olympics. These athletes generally train for years, honing their skills so they can perform at the top of their game. Despite all their hard work, though, athletes don’t’ receive a penny from the IOC to take part in the games.

This is primarily because historically, the Olympics were solely for non-professional athletes. It was considered an unfair advantage for those that trained professionally over those that treated their sport as a hobby.

Times have changed…

Obviously, this is no longer the case, but the IOC hasn’t altered its stance on financial payments to athletes, despite generating huge revenues through the sale of TV rights and merchandising. Quite outrageous, in my opinion.

how much do olympic athlete make

The Situation For US Olympians

Amazingly for such a wealthy country, there is very little in the way of support for American athletes who qualify for the Olympics. Unless you’re at the top of your sport in the US or making a living as a professional athlete in a lucrative industry, you’ll likely struggle financially in order to make it to the Olympics.

For example, after winning a Bronze medal in Judo at the Beijing Olympics, future UFC star Ronda Rousey was living out of her car as she couldn’t afford to rent. Fortune has since favored her, but many are not so lucky.

But, where does the money go?

While the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) made $625 million annually between 2005 to 2008 from broadcasting rights alone, there were more than one hundred crowdfunding requests from US athletes needing funding for basic equipment and living expenses in the run-up to the 2016 Rio games.

The USOC does pay the travel expenses of athletes that qualify for the games, but when it comes to financial assistance for training, many athletes have to rely on other revenue streams to try and make ends meet.

Athletes have to work normal jobs too!

These can include part-time or even full-time jobs. For example, the triathlete Gwen Jorgensen was a part-time accountant throughout her career, and Lance Brooks, a discus thrower, had to work in construction to chase his dream of an Olympic medal.

One thing the USOC does do is reward athletes who win a medal. Gold is rewarded with a $37,500 payout, with silver taking home $22,500 and bronze earning $15,000. While this is better than nothing, as we will see in a moment, these figures are dwarfed by the financial rewards medalists receive from other national federations.

Endorsement deals are key…

One thing Olympic success can do for an athlete is attract corporate sponsorship and endorsements deals which is really where the money is at.

In 2021, the gymnast Simone Biles earned over $5 million in endorsement deals with multiple companies. Other big earners include the swimmer Katie Ledecky and the snowboarder Shaun White, both of whom have won multiple gold medals at multiple Olympics.

Something doesn’t add up…

But for every success story, there are thousands of Olympic hopefuls who have to rely on help from family and friends or even charitable donations from their local communities.

Lucrative sponsorships and endorsements are non-existent for the also-rans. In fact, US Olympians earned on average $16,500 from their athletic endeavors in 2021. By American standards, this is over three times lower than the national average!

Olympian Earnings Around the World

Other countries do things very differently. Here are a few examples from around the world.

Great Britain

Great Britain is very unusual in that it doesn’t offer any monetary rewards for athletes who win an Olympic medal. Instead, they fund Olympic sports directly through money generated via the national lottery and the government agency UK Sport.

UK sport will identify the athletes and sports they feel have the best chance of success at any given games and directly allocate funds on that basis. Athletes receive between $52,000 to $80,000. This allows those that receive funding to train full-time and also pays for the necessary support teams, facilities, and equipment.

Supporting their champions…

For the recent Tokyo Olympics, overall funding across the sports totaled $481 million. This approach has seen Great Britain increase their medal tally immensely over the last 20 years.


Singaporean Olympians are provided with a great financial incentive to take home a medal. Gold medal performances are rewarded with a $744,000 bonus, silver will get you $372,000, and bronze is a very respectable $286,000 prize.

On the flip side, potential Olympians are not very well funded in terms of stipends or grants for training. Scholarships are available from organizations such as the Peter Lim Foundation, but the overall funding is limited. This meant that only 23 athletes were sent to the Tokyo Olympics.

how much do the olympic athletes make


Malaysian Olympians receive a respectable $241,000 for gold, $72,000 for silver, and $24,000 for bronze. On top of these win bonuses, they also receive a monthly salary for life. The amounts of $1200, $700, and $500 for gold, silver, and bronze, respectively. This money obviously goes a lot further in Malaysia.

Post-Olympic Career Options

Once again, the future is generally bright for athletes who had great success at the Olympics. Fame and fortune are there for the taking, especially if you come from a country that has had limited success at the games. You’re guaranteed to be a household name for life.

Many opportunities are open to these Olympians. They can make a lot of extra money through advertising deals, as well as TV and movie appearances. Or by using their wealth and brand name to develop entrepreneurial businesses of their own. Less successful Olympians often find themselves in coaching roles or continuing the careers they had to hold down whilst they were training.

Olympians Amazing Stories And Biographies!

We have some amazing online finds on the Olympians mentioned above, starting with Ronda Rousey: The Biography and the Rowdy Rousey: Ronda Rousey’s Fight to the Top, or how about Go, Gwen, Go: A Family’s Journey to Olympic Gold, all available online in 2023.

Next, of course, is the story of Simone Biles with Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance, and the Flying High: The Story of Gymnastics Champion Simone Biles, or how about the Simone Biles: America’s Greatest Gymnast and finally, the inspiring read of The Story of Simone Biles: A Biography Book for New Readers for kids!

Lastly, we have the fierce Olympian story of Shaun White, 2nd Edition (Amazing Athletes), as well as Shaun White: Airborne, and let’s not forget the extraordinary swimmer with the book Katie Ledecky (Sports All-Stars (Lerner ™ Sports)), and Katie Ledecky: Swimming’s Golden Girl (SportStars) also available online today.

Final Thoughts

The life of your average Olympian isn’t nearly as financially rewarding as it might look from the outside. In a recent survey of 500 athletes from 48 countries, 58% replied that they didn’t consider themselves financially stable. In other words, it was a struggle to support themselves whilst training at such a high level.

57% also thought that the IOC should be paying Olympic qualifiers for their time. It’s quite bizarre that IOC members get paid $7000 to watch the games, whilst the athletes don’t get a dime.

For the best of the best, a successful Olympic career can bring vast wealth. For everyone else, the love of competition will have to do.

Keep your head up and your spirit strong… We’re proud of you all!

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About Wendy Young

Wendy runs an employment agency with her husband, Ian, in Rochester, New York.

She loves nothing more than hosting a good dinner party and spends weeks intricately planning her next 'event.' She often uses these to introduce clients to potential employers in a relaxed, informal fashion. The food must be delicious, the cocktails and wine must be a perfect match, and the decor needs to impress without being over the top. With all that going on, it's amazing that she gets any time to write about her thoughts on securing the dream job.

They live on the outskirts of New York with their poodle, Princess.

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