"60% of Elite Athletes are Broke?" Here's the Dark side to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. (audio/videos) - Welcome To Plugstuck Afrik

“60% of Elite Athletes are Broke?” Here’s the Dark side to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. (audio/videos)6 min read

Did you know? Unless they win a medal, these Olympians, particularly those from the United States, don’t get paid for competing at the games. – The Insider Reports.

However, some Olympians earn millions of dollars. But, a recent global study of 500 elite athletes found that nearly 60% did not consider themselves financially stable. Some of these Olympians take up part-time jobs to make ends meet vis-à-vis their Athletic careers. Others lament that the financial strain is huge.


Now, the question begs; “Is being an Athlete and competing in the Olympic Games (which holds only every 4years), a fool’s gold?


Why some athletes earn more and others don’t?

Did you know Singapore is the only country that rewards its gold medalists nearly 20 times more than their United States counterparts. Singaporean Olympians who clinch their first individual gold medal for the city-state, stand to receive 1 million Singapore dollars ($737,000). The prize money is taxable and awardees are required to return a portion of it to their National Sports Associations for future training and development.


The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee rewards athletes $37,500 for every gold medal won, $22,500 for silver and $15,000 for bronze. Most of that prize money is not taxable unless athletes report gross income that exceeds $1 million.

U.S. athletes also receive other forms of support including health insurance, access to top-tier medical facilities and college tuition assistance.

According to Unmish Parthasarathi, founder and executive director at consulting firm Picture Board Partners, while the sporting economy in the U.S. allows athletes to better monetize their talents (as most of it is driven by the private sector), in places like Singapore, India and others alike, many of the National Sporting Initiatives (are driven by the government), who sometimes use higher monetary rewards to encourage a growing sporting culture.

How do athletes really make money?

According to a Forbes report, beyond receiving monetary and non-monetary rewards from their countries for winning medals, Olympians rely on other revenue streams for their sporting endeavors.

According to another report, a handful of athletes may score multi-million-dollar endorsements or sponsorship deals, either before competing at the Olympics or after achieving success in the Games.

For example, tennis star Naomi Osaka reportedly made $55 million from endorsements in 12 months, and was named the highest-paid female athlete ever.

But scoring lucrative deals is rare, and hardly the norm, as athletes from bigger, more competitive countries:

  1. Receive stipends or training grants from their National Sports Associations.
  2. Top performers collect prize money by winning national and international tournaments.
  3. Others draw regular salary by holding a variety of jobs.

READ MORE: Eehyah!….Nigerian Paralympic gold medalist, Esther Oyema gets 4-year ban, for violating Anti-doping rules.

  1. Some, like U.S. badminton player Zhang Beiwen, reportedly relied on crowdsourcing to finance their trip to Tokyo.
  2. Others go into coaching after retirement, as people are willing to pay a premium for former Olympians.
  3. Most Team USA athletes are not represented by sports agents and some have no sponsors or endorsements at all.


Earnings and Expenses of elite athletes in the United States by Lauryn Williams.

Did You Know? US News & World Report found it costs up to $100,000 a year for athletes to be Olympians.

You see someone that’s on television all the time and assume all Olympic athletes are famous, all you have to do is get a medal and you’ll be rich. And nothing could be further from the truth.

Lauryn Williams, first American woman in history to win medals in both summer and winter Olympic games.


The International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Games’ organizing body, doesn’t pay any athlete(s) who participate in a particular Olympiad, or give out prize money for medals. It’s akin to how leagues like the NFL and the NBA don’t pay players; instead, individual teams in the league and/or the government are responsible for providing compensation.

But, did you know, these athletes have a long list of expenses to train for their sport and are responsible for their coach, massage therapists as well as nutritionists and making sure they are paid and compensated accordingly?

Something like a Lauryn William’s per annum earnings of $250,000, turns into $125,000 really quick. Here’s how that happens:


  1. 15% to 20% generally goes to your agent. So that’s money that doesn’t exist anymore.
  2. They changed the rules so athletes won’t be taxed on their medal bonuses if they make under $1 million annually. However, US Olympians used to have to pay as much as $8,900 in taxes on a gold medal bonus.
  3. Coaches can cost more than $100 an hour. That bobsled sport Lauryn William competed in costs about $30,000 (about 300 hours of training).
  4. Cost of getting training shoes every two to three months run into $200, $300.


The Dark Side as reported by The Insider.

Monica: It’s left Olympians and their families struggling to make ends meet. I’ve been raised by a single mother since I’m 8 years old, so she definitely was funding everything when I was younger. She went into credit card debt because of me. I feel like I am one of the best in America.

So, if I can do that while I’m at one point working two jobs and Door Dash and everything like that, then I can’t imagine what I can do if I didn’t have to do that. There are times where I don’t even have money in my bank account.

Phil: I think that some of the funding for Team USA should come from the US government.

That money could ensure that our US Olympic team are treated equally to the level of achievement or treated to a salary that is appropriate for them representing this country.


ALSO READ: 60+ Key Stats About the Olympic and Paralympic Games


Across America, athletes are facing a decision. Is it all worth it? Twenty-seven times over, yes, yes, and yes. Even if it was half the income, I don’t think that I would regret one moment having participated in sport.

I get to play the sport I love every single day. That’s wealth. That’s being rich. But I wouldn’t be upset if in the future, we were able to make some more money and not necessarily have to have two jobs.

Aaron: It kind of puts a chip on my shoulder to go even harder, to compete at the best and compete with the best so that I can take myself out of this position.

Monica: That’s my only question over the next three years of, do I continue another three years of being broke? I want to go back. I want to have the opportunity to win an individual medal. But is it worth being broke again?

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