Some Olympic medalists receive cash bonuses
TOKYO – After winning her first career gold medal at the Summer Olympics here, American wrestler Tamyra Mensah-Stock had big plans for the bonus money that comes with it: buying her mom a food truck of $ 30,000.
Tamerlan Bashaev, 25, a Russian judoka who won a bronze medal, wants to use his money to get married and go on his honeymoon. Andrea Proske, a rower who helped Canada win their first gold in the women’s eight since 1992, can’t wait to take her mother on vacation to London.
“I couldn’t see her,” said Proske, 35, who will receive C $ 20,000, or about US $ 16,000. “We’ve all been really in our own bubble. So just being able to kiss my mom for the first time since we came back from Covid is going to be special. “
Winning an Olympic medal is often the crowning achievement of an athlete’s career. Most Olympians, however, aren’t multi-millionaire athletes like Naomi Osaka, Rory McIlroy or Kevin Durant, so competing at this elite level can be a financial struggle.
But many Olympic medalists leave Tokyo with more than just prizes. They get an extra boost behind the scenes in the form of a bonus. Winning fills the wallet well in some countries – a fact that arouses some fear and even some envy among medal winners.
Some of the bonuses are substantial: the million Singapore dollars in local currency (about $ 740,000 in the US) for a gold medal is the biggest known award. Some are more modest: an American medalist receives $ 37,500 for gold, $ 22,500 for silver and $ 15,000 for bronze. The other bonuses are non-existent, as for the British, New Zealand and Norwegian medalists.
(Some countries offer other perks such as allowances, houses, lifetime supplies of beer, free flights, or even exemptions from compulsory military service. Some national governing bodies also offer rewards – USA Wrestling offered to Kyle Snyder $ 250,000 for his gold at the Rio 2016 Games.)
“It’s funny because that’s not why we do this,” said American baseball player Eddy Alvarez, who won a silver medal – and a $ 15,000 bonus – as speed skater at the 2014 Olympics.
“A lot of Olympians don’t play Olympic sports to be millionaires,” he continued. “You have very few who make it big, but we do it for pride and glory above all else. You sacrifice so much time that winning a medal solidifies our trip. Money is just a small bonus, at least for me.
Alvarez said he deposited the 2014 bonus into his bank account to start saving, but then used it to pay for housing and other needs as he started his career in the minor leagues, where players often win. salaries ranging from about $ 1,000 to $ 15,000 per season.
“It’s going to be a little different now that I have a son,” said Alvarez, who will become the sixth person to win a medal at the Summer and Winter Olympics after the United States faces Japan in the gold medal game on Saturday. . “It will go to him.”
When Joseph Schooling of Singapore won the men’s 100-meter butterfly in 50.39 seconds at the Rio 2016 Games, he won the first gold medal in the history of his country, an island city-state known as one of the richest per capita in the world. . It paid for tuition, then 21.
In the 1990s, the Singapore National Olympic Council designed an incentive program to reward athletes who won medals at major international events. Payouts range from Singapore $ 1 million for an individual Olympic gold medal to $ 10,000 for an individual gold medal at the Southeast Asian Games. According to the council, the program is supported by corporate sponsorship and donations from the country’s gaming revenues.
“The monetary rewards have supported athletes so that they can pursue their athletic dreams and do so knowing that bread and butter issues may be of less concern,” said Chuan-Jin Tan, Chairman of the Singapore National Olympic Council. , in a press release.
After paying taxes and making a mandatory 20 percent donation, Schooling said he had about $ 650,000 left. Schooling, who competed in the Tokyo Games but failed to defend his title, said he put the remaining money in a joint bank account for his parents because they had invested so much that he travels to the United States and pursues his Olympic dreams.
At 13, Schooling left Singapore for a private school in Florida, where American swimmer Caeleb Dressel also competed. His parents bought a house nearby and took turns commuting between countries looking after him, while trying to run their own business. He then attended the University of Texas.
Schooling estimated that his parents “easily” spent double the net amount he earned in his Olympic bonus. “The amount of the sacrifices, the intangibles, would be five to six times higher,” he said.
Many Tokyo Olympians have said they intend to use the bonus money for the family. French judoka star Teddy Riner, 32, who added a team gold and an individual bronze in Tokyo to a bonus that already included two gold and one bronze, said he would put her bonus money in her children’s bank accounts and would take them on vacation.
Kazakh weightlifter Igor Son, 22, was hoping to use the $ 75,000 payment for his bronze medal to help pay for expensive treatment for his brother, who suffers from cerebral palsy, the country’s Olympic committee said.
Long before winning her gold medal, Mensah-Stock, 28, said she promised her mother she would help her start her own food business. Mensah-Stock failed to qualify for the 2016 Games, but in Tokyo she won gold and silver.
“My mom is going to have a food truck!” she proclaimed happily after her victory, later adding, “She can cook really, really, really well.”
Unfortunately, Mensah-Stock said, she won’t be able to participate in the barbecue: “I’m a pescatarian now. “
When Ivorian Ruth Gbagbi won a bronze medal in taekwondo in 2016, she said she used the roughly $ 54,000 to build a house and renovate her parents’ one. After winning another bronze medal in the under 67 kilograms category in Tokyo, Gbagbi said she was unsure how much she would get and what she would do with it.
When asked if the payments were a nice reward, Gbagbi, 27, said she was a bit disappointed comparing them to those in other countries. And, she says, there have only been two other Olympic medalists from her country. “Côte d’Ivoire can do more,” she said in French.
In some countries, where more authoritarian governments are heavily involved in Olympic efforts, it was not known how much the medalists earned. (The Olympic committees for some did not respond to requests for comment either.)
Cuban judoka Idalys Ortiz, 31, who added a bronze medal in Tokyo to a collection that already included a gold, silver and bronze medal, bristled when asked what plans she had for any reward she might receive.
“Everyone makes their life as they please,” she said in Spanish, adding later: “If I can help some people on the streets, I will. If I can buy a house, so will I. We each do what we want with our money.
Norwegian rower Kjetil Borch paused and smiled when asked how he would spend his reward. He won a silver medal in the men’s single scull, finishing about a second behind Greece’s Stefanos Ntouskos and one ahead of Croatia’s Damir Martin.
“Maybe we’ll get a letter from the king and the prime minister,” he said. “I’m pretty sure Croatia and Greece aren’t getting a letter from the king.”
Borch, 31, said he wrote the last letter he received from King Harald V after winning a bronze medal in 2016. Norway does not give any bounties to its medalists, said Halvor Lea, spokesperson for her national Olympic committee, but she grants allowances. Athletes receive 12,000 euros (US $ 14,000) per year for high performance equipment or training – not, Lea added, for a car or a nice watch.
“I am lucky to have my private sponsors,” Borch said. “I’ll have a conversation with them when I get home. I have a Lego car that I could donate, but not a house.
When told that Singapore gives $ 1 million to its gold medalists, Borch said, “How long does it take to apply for citizenship?