For those that haven’t been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard that we’re in the midst of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
Personally, I love watching the Olympics.
Every two years we get to watch the absolute best athletes compete against each other for the glory of winning the gold medal for themselves and their country.
As a former college athlete, I can relate to the passion and raw emotion that these athletes exhibit.
I know the commitment, dedication and time it takes to be competitive in your sport.
But to be among the best in the world at your sport?
I can only imagine what that takes.
Knowing that these athletes train all four years just for the chance to compete at the Olympics, it got me wondering.
Just how much do these people make?
The answer may surprise you.
How Much Money Olympic Athletics Make
Here’s the breakdown of earnings by medal for US athletes at the 2018 Winter Olympics:
That’s a nice bonus for getting a fancy medal!
Well it is, at least until you realize they only compete every 4 years.
Hey at least they don’t have to pay taxes on their medal earnings anymore.
Despite this, some Olympic Athletes go on to achieve celebrity status.
You may have heard of Shaun White (snowboarding), Lindsay Vonn (skiing), Michael Phelps (swimming) and Simone Biles (gymnastics).
These people are stars, and well deserved at that. They’ve made millions of dollars from their performances at the Olympics.
However, as it turns out, they are the exception, not the standard.
You see, the thing is, Olympic athletes aren’t salaried employees.
This means none of them are guaranteed ANY money.
The money they do make comes strictly from performance based rewards and endorsements.
Basically, you get money by winning, and by winning you get the big endorsements.
In addition, the more popular the event, the more potential earnings there are.
For instance, in the Summer Olympics, everyone loves watching the swimming and gymnastics events
Sponsors know this and thus these athletes are targeted for more endorsement opportunities.
What about those competing in less popular events such as kayaking?
Very few, if any, will ever make serious money participating in these events.
So, if you aren’t at the very top of your sport, or you don’t compete in the more popular events, how do you make money?
How Most Olympic Athletes Make Their Money
To be among the best at a sport, you need to put some serious time into it.
Even when not competing in the Olympics for a couple years, a vast majority of the athlete’s time goes towards training.
After all, there are still yearly world championships and Olympic qualifying events that they need to stay in shape and at the top of their game for.
Because of this, most competitors cannot hold full time jobs.
If they are not getting any serious sponsorship’s, they must rely on part time jobs and other side gigs to provide their income.
Occasionally, athletes can get stipends from private organizations while training, but these are typically meager and not nearly enough to get by on.
Many younger athletes are fully supported and funded by their parents, which sometimes can even lead them into bankruptcy.
Older athletes have to provide for themselves.
The sad truth of the matter is that many Olympic athletes live at or below the poverty line.
These people have had to adopt measures that would make even the most frugal financial bloggers proud.
In addition, while competing and training, these athletes are giving up prime years of working and gaining new skills to help them when they eventually stop competing.
Despite all this, most athletes will be the first to tell you they aren’t doing this for the money.
It’s all for the love of their sport.
The Bottom Line
Although the Olympics are an amazing time to watch the best athletes in the world, try to remember the hardships and sacrifices many of these athletes made to get in this spot.
It is one thing to completely dedicate yourself to a sport for the love of it, but it’s taken to a whole new level when you realize that many are doing this without much hope of getting highly compensated at all.
While many kids dream of a chance to compete in the Olympics, they may not realize the difficulties that lie ahead.
Then again, when you’re chasing Olympic glory, are you really concerned about finances?
If you were a top athlete without endorsements, would you consider not competing due to financial reasons?