How Much Do Olympic Athletes Make?

The Summer and Winter Olympics are full of some of the most exciting sports events.

Seriously, when else do you watch curling, handball, or the pentathlon? But have you ever wondered, “How much do Olympic athletes make?”

For many athletes, winning an Olympic gold medal is the ultimate dream. Whether they medal or not, Olympic athletes’ pay levels vary widely. You might be surprised to see how much Olympians make.

Many professional athletes, who will never compete in the Olympics, earn more than many Olympians.

Table of Contents
  1. Do Olympic Athletes Make Money?
    1. Medal Bonus
    2. Endorsements
  2. Some of the Highest-Paid Olympic Athletes
    1. Michael Phelps
    2. Katie Ledecky
    3. Usain Bolt
    4. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce
    5. Lionel Messi
    6. Alex Morgan
    7. Novak Djokovic
    8. Serena Williams
    9. Shaun White
    10. Jamie Anderson
    11. Simone Biles
    12. Kohei Uchimura
  3. Summary

Do Olympic Athletes Make Money?

How much Olympic athletes earn depends on the sport, which nation they represent, and if they win any medals. A 2012 CNN Report states most American Olympic athletes make $15,000 or less. It’s safe to assume most Olympic athletes compete for the love of the game.

Athletes don’t receive a base salary from the International Olympic Committee just for competing in the Olympics; however, they may earn a stipend or one-time payment from their country’s Olympic committee. Each nation has a different payment policy.

Similar to actors hoping to become a famous movie star, many amateur athletes side hustle to pay the bills. Only the best-known athletes can earn a full-time income from sponsors, playing professionally, or both. If you live near an Olympic training center, there’s a chance you are interacting with an Olympic athlete in disguise.

Medal Bonus

The only income some Olympic athletes may earn is by winning a gold, silver, or bronze medal. There are approximately 1,000 medals awarded at each Olympics; although, there are more than 15,000 competitors.

The lucky winners get a prize from their nation’s Olympic committee. For instance, CNBC reports U.S. Olympians in the 2018 Winter Olympics won the following cash prize for winning a medal:

  • Gold medal: $37,500
  • Silver medal: $22,500
  • Bronze medal: $15,000

On team events, the payout might be higher, but is split between all team members.

Other nation’s Olympic committees pay a higher medal bonus. For instance, Singapore Olympians can earn $1 million United States dollars. While this is one of the largest prizes, Singapore only won one medal in the 2016 Summer Olympics. It just so happened to be a gold medal.

Here are recent gold medal bonuses for select countries from the 2018 Winter Olympics:

  • Indonesia: $746,000
  • Azerbaijan: $248,000
  • Italy: $166,000
  • Russia: $61,000
  • South Africa: $37,000
  • Germany: $22,000
  • Canada: $15,000

*All of the above numbers are in United States dollars.


The most potential income for Olympic athletes comes from brand sponsors. If you see Olympians on the Wheaties cereal box or in a TV commercial, they are getting paid.

However, amateur athletes are forbidden from receiving endorsement money. One of the best examples is swimmer Katie Ledecky. Despite winning the most medals for a female at the 2016 Summer Olympics, she couldn’t accept any endorsement money. This is because she was still an NCAA college student at Stanford University during this time.

Still, this is a fun way to make money in college.

Professional athletes, especially the “international superstars,” tend to earn the most. Even athletes who are not household names and finish strong can secure a lucrative sponsorship. It can be hard to precisely determine how much athletes make from competing in the Olympics. This is because they also earn income from other athletic events and endorsements.

Some of the Highest-Paid Olympic Athletes

Here are some of the highest-earning Olympic athletes. It’s hard to track down exactly how much they earn by only competing in the Olympics. Although, we can still track the net worth for many athletes to see how winning medals affects their wealth. You will see a good cross-section of how much athletes can make depending on their skill, sport, gender, and nationality.

Michael Phelps

The most-decorated Olympian needs little introduction. Swimmer Michael Phelps has made over $60 million by winning 23 Olympic medals. As you have probably already guessed, most of that wealth is from endorsements.
Let’s put Mr. Phelps net worth into perspective with other male Olympic swimmers. American 12-time medal winner Ryan Lochte only has an approximate $6 million net worth.

Katie Ledecky

Katie Ledecky is one of the best examples of how amateur Olympic athletes earn less than professional athletes. Although Katie has won five Olympic medals and holds numerous swimming world records, her net worth was only $68,000 in 2016. This income is from winning the Olympic medals.
As an amateur athlete, Katie couldn’t accept endorsements for her achievements, only the Olympic medal bonuses. Some estimates predict her net worth would have been as much as $3 million if she could accept sponsor deals. Just imagine how many other athletes have been in the same boat.

Usain Bolt

The world’s faster sprinter is Jamaican-born Usain Bolt. He won nine Olympic medals and retired in 2017. His estimated net worth in 2018 was $31 million. His Olympic fame has helped him ink a $10 million-a-year endorsement with Puma. He also owns the Tracks & Records restaurant brand in Jamaica and the United Kingdom.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce

One of the most-decorated female Olympic track stars also hails from Jamaica. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce has won six medals from the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Summer Olympics. Her net worth is approximately $4 million.
As a fun fact, the legendary American Jackie Joyner-Kersee had an approximate $5 million net worth in 2016. Bear in mind that her last Olympic appearance was the 1996 Atlanta games.

Lionel Messi

One of the best international male soccer stars of this century is Lionel Messi. Some reports measure his net worth at $400 million. His current day job is playing forward for FC Barcelona in Spain’s La Liga, but he also helped Argentina win the gold medal at the 2008 Olympics. Additionally, he plays on Argentina’s national team for international competitions like the World Cup.

One of his most valuable sponsorships is with Adidas. This lifetime deal is reportedly worth more than $1 billion. Other sponsors include Mastercard, Pepsi, and Lay’s.

Alex Morgan

You may know Alex Morgan for being one of the co-captains for the 2019 U.S. women’s soccer team that won the World Cup. She has also made several Olympic appearances with Team USA including the 2012 squad that won gold. Alex also plays full-time in the National Women’s Soccer League with an annual salary of $56,000.

Her approximate net worth is currently $3 million. Key endorsements include Nike, Coca Cola, and Molecule.

Novak Djokovic

Serbian Novak Djokovic has the highest career earnings in tennis. Yet, he has only won a single bronze medal in three Olympic appearances. His career earnings are currently above $135 million according to the ATP Tour. He earns an estimated $22 million each year in endorsements. His estimated net worth is $200 million.

Serena Williams

Tennis is another exciting sport where female athletes can earn more than their peers, but still not as much as their male counterparts. Serena Williams is the highest-earning female star who has won five Olympic medals and dozens of tournament titles. Her estimated net worth is $180 million.

Shaun White

Shaun White is easily the highest-paid Winter Olympian. He has won three Olympic golds and multiple X-Games awards. His estimated net worth is a cool $40 millionwhich is mostly from endorsements. His key sponsors include Burton, Kraft, and Red Bull. He also has licensed video gamesas well.

Jamie Anderson

The highest-earning female Olympic snowboarder is Jamie Anderson. She, too, has won three Olympic gold medals and several X-Games medals, but she doesn’t have quite the resume as Shaun White (yet). Her estimated net worth is approximately $4 million.

Simone Biles

Simone has won more Olympic gold medals than any other male or female gymnast. Her approximate net worth is $4 million. Gymnastics is also one of the most-widely watched Olympic events where the best male and female athletes have one of the smallest pay gaps. Simone’s net worth is competitive with, or higher than, most male Olympic gymnasts.

Kohei Uchimura

Some say that Japan’s Kohei Uchimura is the best male gymnast of all-time. He currently has three gold medals and four silver medals. His net worth estimates vary widely between $1 million and $10 million. What we do know is that the Japan Olympic Committee has paid him approximately $226,600 US Dollarsfor his achievements.


Each country’s Olympic committee determines how much their athletes make for winning a medal, but the real money is in endorsements. Contrary to popular belief, many of the world’s best athletes don’t make a livable income from their athletic talent.

Other Posts You May Enjoy:

YouTube TV Review: Is It Worth It?

YouTube TV is a cable and satellite TV alternative that allows you to stream more than 100 popular channels. It also gives you the option of adding NFL Sunday ticket for an extra fee. But at over $70 per month for the Basic plan, is YouTube TV worth paying for? Find out in this YouTube TV review.

FuboTV Review: How Does It Compare?

FuboTV is a video streaming platform and cable TV alternative that features hundreds of channels across many different genres, including several sports channels. But how does it compare to other popular streaming channels, like Hulu, Sling TV, and YouTube TV, and is FuboTV affordable? Find out in this FuboTV review.

Bingo Party Review: Is Bingo Party Legit?

Bingo Party is a free online game that's available for download on iOS and Android devices. It offers multiple board themes and cards, live tournaments, and various game options, which helps players avoid repetitiveness and boredom. But is Bingo Party legit and can you win real money? Find out in this Bingo Party review.

Solitaire Cube Review: Is it Legit?

Solitaire Cube is an online game based on Klondike Solitaire. With a 5-minute time limit, you work to place your Ace for each suit and other cards in ascending order in the upper board section. But is it legit and can you win real cash? Find out in this Solitaire Cube Review.

About Josh Patoka

After graduating in $50k with student loans in May 2008 from Virginia Military Institute with a B.A. International Studies and Political Science with a minor in Spanish (he studied abroad in Sevilla, Spain for 3 months), Josh decided to sell his soul for seven years by working in the transportation industry to get out of debt ASAP and focus on doing something else with a better work-life balance.

He is a father of three and has been writing about (almost) everything personal finance since 2015. You can also find him at his own blog Money Buffalo where he shares his personal experience of becoming debt-free (twice) and taking a 50%+ pay cut when he changed careers.

Today, Josh relishes the flexibility of being self-employed and debt-free and encourages others to pursue their dreams. Josh enjoys spending his free time reading books and spending time with his wife and three children.

Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank or financial institution. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Reader Interactions


About the comments on this site:

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

  1. GhostRider2001 says

    I’m old enough to remember when Olympic athletes were true amateurs. No pros allowed. The Olympics definitely seemed to mean more back in that era. Now they are tainted.

As Seen In: