Imagine being in college student athlete sitting in a dorm room, dreaming about competing at their sport’s highest level. While certain young athletes might have a chance to compete for team and individual honors in professional leagues, others can only aspire to achieve greatness on the Summer Olympic stage.
Students can devote the majority or entirety of their college experience honing their craft well enough to qualify for the Olympics. This includes traveling to tournaments, working out, and often spending their own money in order to show the world how far they’ve come.
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If an American athlete is lucky enough to be among the best, they’ll be awarded with a medal that they’ll cherish for their rest of their lives. If the student athlete is still in college, they will now be able to profit off of their own name, image and likeness. But besides personal satisfaction, what’s the reward for dedicating years of your life to being one of the world’s best?
For U.S. athletes, it’s not a great deal. Each gold medal an American athlete wins is compensated with $37,500, while each silver medal awarded comes with a $22,500 prize. Securing a bronze medal will net an Olympic athlete $15,000. While these amounts are not nothing, they pale in comparison to the type of monetary recognition medalists in other (less prosperous) countries receive.
If you’re an athlete competing in an individual sport for Taiwan, and you bring home a gold medal, you receive the equivalent of $716,000 USD. If you compete for Estonia and bring home top honors in an individual sport, you’ll receive $5,500 every year for life.
It’s pretty fascinating to observe how other nation’s truly cherish their top Olympians, while the United States’ purse-strings remain relatively tight in this area. The United States has brought home the most medals for six straight Olympic games, and are well on their way to doing it again this year in Tokyo.
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It’s probably not reasonable to pay each athlete the type of individual sums mentioned above, but it seems like there’s a happy middle ground. For a college athlete who’s cobbled resources together just to get to the Olympics, maybe the United States could pay off student loans, or fund continued education. It will be interesting to see if rewards are enhanced for the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics, and 2024 Summer Olympics in France.