Finishing on the podium is a matter of national pride. For some winners, it also means taking home a cash bonus and opening doors to rare multimillion-dollar sponsorship opportunities.
The International Olympic Committee does not pay prize money to medalists, but many countries offer monetary rewards to their athletes for the number of medals they win at either the Summer Olympics or Winter Olympics.
CNBC compiled the chart below, sourcing information from various national Olympic committees, sports associations and personal finance site Money Under 30.
The data showed the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee rewards its 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.
American athletes also receive other forms of support such as health insurance, access to top-tier medical facilities and college tuition assistance.
The U.S. sent more than 200 athletes to compete in Beijing. Team USA has so far bagged 7 gold medals, 6 silver and 3 bronze.
At the 2021 summer games, American athletes took home 39 gold, 41 silver and 33 bronze — racking up the highest medal tally by any country in Tokyo.
How much do other countries pay?
Some countries and territories provide much higher monetary incentives for their athletes to finish on the podium. Experts say some of it is an attempt to develop national sporting cultures.
Singapore, for example, rewards its gold medalists nearly 20 times more than the U.S.
Players 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 the winning recipients are required to return a portion of it to their national sports associations for future training and development.
Kazakhstan pays their athletes about $250,000 for a gold medal, Italy gives about $213,000, the Philippines around $200,000 while Malaysia also offers hefty rewards for its athletes. Hong Kong, which competes separately from China at the Olympics, last year offered 5 million Hong Kong dollars ($641,000) for gold winners.
When India’s javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra secured the country’s first gold in track-and-field in Tokyo last year, several politicians and corporate brands reportedly announced millions of rupees in monetary reward for the athlete.
Apart from medal bonuses, winners in these countries are also offered other compensations. For example when Filipino weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz won the country’s first Olympic gold last year, she was reportedly offered two homes and free flights for life.
To begin with, clinching a spot on the Olympics team is not an easy feat and athletes dedicate most of their time to training for the games — that makes holding down full-time employment difficult.
In some sports, equipment, coaching and access to training venues can also rack up an athlete’s expenses.
While sportspeople from bigger, more competitive countries receive stipends or training grants from their national sports associations, others hold down a variety of jobs or turn to crowdsourcing to finance their Olympic dreams.
Top performers also collect prize money by winning national and international tournaments.
How hard is it to get sponsored?
Only a handful of top athletes land multimillion dollar endorsements or sponsorship deals, either before competing at the Olympics or after achieving success in the Games.
Snowboarder Shaun White, for example, received his first board sponsorship when he was 7, NBC Sports reported. After he won his first Olympic gold medal in 2006, snowboard-manufacturing company Burton signed him on to a 10-year contract and White pocketed an estimated $10 million a year in sponsorships, according to NBC.
Last year, U.S. swimmer Katie Ledecky and gymnast Simone Biles received millions in endorsements ahead of the summer games, Forbes reported. Meanwhile, tennis star Naomi Osaka reportedly made $55 million from endorsements in 12 months, and was named the highest-paid female athlete ever, according to reports.
But scoring lucrative deals is rare, and hardly the norm.
Most Team USA athletes are not represented by sports agents and some have no sponsors or endorsements at all, according to a Forbes report.
Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal owns NBC Sports and NBC Olympics. NBC Olympics is the U.S. broadcast rights holder to all Summer and Winter Games through 2032.