Athletes earn various incomes depending on the sport they partake in, their competition level, and their overall skillset. If you're an Olympic-hopeful, though, the money you earn may come from a variety of sources. Understanding how Olympians earn money helps you determine if you want to pursue this athletic career. In this article, we explain what an Olympian is, their average salary and what it takes to become an Olympian.
What is an Olympian?
An Olympian is an athlete who competes in the Olympic Games. They often devote their lives to making it to the Olympics and once they do, they compete for the gold, silver, and bronze medals during the competition. If they earn any of these medals, they're then called an Olympic medalist. Whether they participate in a solo or team sport, Olympians train for hours each day to perfect their athletic abilities and maintain their physical fitness.
How much do Olympians make?
Most Olympians don't receive any compensation for simply competing in the Olympics. Despite not having a national average salary, Olympians can earn funding from a variety of sources including corporate sponsorships, endorsement deals and medal bonuses. Here's a look at each of these funding avenues:
One way for Olympians to earn money is through corporate sponsorships. With this form of advertising, a company pays to be associated with an Olympic athlete or team. When they sponsor a team, each member of the team wears their company logo on their clothing and gear. Depending on the sponsorship, it may or may not be enough money to support an Olympian through training and competition.
An endorsement deal refers to a business arrangement wherein a company establishes a direct relationship with an athlete. During this partnership, athletes advertise or promote a company's products or services. Though the monetary gain you make from an endorsement deal can vary, high-end brands can earn Olympians enough money to live an affluent lifestyle.
Medal bonuses from the United States Olympic Committee (USOC)
Though the International Olympic Committee doesn't award medalists with prize money, several countries award their athletes for every medal they earn. For example, for every medal a U.S. Olympian earns, they get a "medal bonus" from the USOC. Simply put, the higher they place, the more money they make. When it comes to team sports, the athletes split the money evenly.
If an athlete earns a medal bonus, the amount they receive highly depends on the country they're from. Based on 2018 data, U.S. gold medalists earned $37,500, silver medalists earned $22,500 and bronze medalists earned $15,000.
In addition to the medal bonus, medalists also get to take home the physical medal itself. Each medal has a different monetary value depending on the actual metal used in its formation.
Other funding sources
In some countries, Olympians may receive special funding such as government or special program sponsorships. This isn't necessarily the case when it comes to U.S. Olympians, though, so people in this category will most likely have to seek funding elsewhere.
Whereas some Olympians may ask their friends and family for funding, others may get sponsored by a local business, get an athletic grant or get a part-time job through the Olympic Job Opportunities Program. In terms of the latter, the USOC partners with American companies and allows Olympians to earn a full-time salary and benefits while working part-time. To gain acceptance, Olympians have to achieve a certain ranking in a specific sport.
In addition to these funding sources, many teams cover an Olympian's travel expenses thanks to private and corporate donors. This allows Olympians to use their out-of-pocket money for other purposes.
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Requirements for Olympians
If you have a goal of becoming an Olympian, there are several requirements you need to meet. Though education and certifications may benefit a general resume, Olympians don't need either of these to pursue this career choice. Here are some of their requirements regarding training and necessary skills:
To become or to succeed like an Olympian, you need to dedicate plenty of time to training. Your specific training schedule depends on the sport you choose. For example, whereas an Olympic swimmer spends time making laps in a pool, a figure skater practices their leaps at an ice rink. Depending on the sport, your training may focus on things such as flexibility, endurance or technique.
Coaches create your training schedule, help you train effectively and teach you new strategies for your given sport. As you advance in your Olympic career, coaches continue to train you and ensure you're ready for your next competition.
Though the specific skills you need as an Olympian depends on the sport you choose, several soft skills can help you in your career. These include the following:
It's important to stay committed to your athletic dreams to reach the Olympic level. Your dedication and determination can often be the source of inspiration you need during training or at an Olympic event.
When you have control over your emotions and overcome your weaknesses, you have the ability to focus on your goals and intentions. As an Olympian, it's important to master self-discipline to help you thrive and reach success.
Having a certain level of athleticism helps you succeed during competitions. Though the type of physical ability you require depends on your sport of choice, it's important to be physically fit and strong overall.
FAQs about becoming an Olympian
What are the benefits of becoming an Olympian?
Qualifying for the Olympics comes with several advantages such as the pride you gain from representing your country. You can also claim to be superior in your sport. Depending on how well you performed at the Olympics, you may gain fame and fortune during your career.
What are the risks of becoming an Olympian?
The main risk of becoming an Olympian involves a sports-related injury such as a concussion or a bone fracture. Olympians may also face dehydration and heat-related illnesses due to their training or performances.
What is the age limit for competing in the Olympics?
There is no set age limit for competing in the Olympics. Though, there are rules when it comes to each International Sports Federation. This age limit varies by sport.