Olympic champions obviously earn multimillion-dollar endorsement deals. Michael Phelps apparently received $5 million for his Under Armour deal, and I bet Simone Biles made a pretty penny for that Tide Pods commercial. But, you may not realize, the earnings don't stop there.
Besides chewing on their medals and accepting those weird statues, top athletes usually earn prize money from their country's Olympic committee. For the United States, gold, silver, and bronze earn $25,000, $15,000 and $10,000 respectively. That means Phelps will earn $140,000 in Rio alone and a whopping $650,000 across all five of his games appearances.
The USOC's "Operation Gold" has written out big checks since the 1994 Winter Olympics to incentivize dominant performances and help pay off training expenses. The funds all come from private donors, not tax dollars, although Uncle Sam does take a percentage of the winnings. Some athletes also receive money from their respective sports' organizations, like USA Swimming. As for team events like soccer or basketball, each member gets their own bonus versus splitting the pie.
But what about amateur athletes like Katie Ledecky? The NCAA made an exception for the Olympics in its strict eligibility rules. She'll enter Stanford as a freshman this fall with six medals and $115,000 in the bank, minus the "victory tax" of course. The Maryland native doesn't top Singapore's Joseph Schooling though. The University of Texas student earned almost $750,000 for his upset over Michael Phelps and the country's first-ever gold medal.
So the next time you wonder what's motivating these incredible athletes, remember, it's a little more than just bragging rights.