TOKYO – Qatar's Mutaz Essa Barshim might not have know exactly what it meant to Gianmarco Tamberi when he asked if the high jumpers could share a gold medal instead of competing in a jump-off to break a tie.
They both agreed, and Tamberi not only took his first career Olympic gold, he earned a bonus of more than $100,000.
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Italy has one of the more generous medal bonuses among those surveyed by USA TODAY Sports, giving its gold medalists 180,000 Euro, or roughly $213,000 – double what it gives its silver medalists. They’ll never know what might have happened in the jump-off, but the friends’ decision to share a spot atop the podium made a big impact on Tamberi.
For athletes from some countries, an Olympic medal brings more than glory and fulfillment for years of hard work. It’s a pay day – and occasionally a big one.
Weightlifter Hsing-Chun Kuo of Chinese Taipei will receive roughly $716,000 for her gold in the 59 kg category. But go up one weight class and it’s clear how varied this can be.
Canada’s Maude Charron won at 64 kg, but that only earns her roughly $16,000. Italy’s Giorgia Bordignon will receive nearly $107,000, thanks to her silver medal. And Chinese Taipei’s bronze from Wen-Huei Chen will earn her more than $179,000.
Why does it work out that way?
A couple reasons. Generally, countries with larger delegations and more projected medals give less in bonuses. The United States, for instance, is challenging for the top of the medal count and tops out at $37,500 for gold medals.
The Americans have more medals (76 and counting) than athletes Chinese Taipei has in its delegation (68).
Many countries fund their sports regularly through their Olympic committees or ministry of sport, so rather than getting a big payday after an event, athletes receive regular funding.
That doesn’t mean Americans can’t make money here.
Caeleb Dressel earned $187,500 just from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee for his five golds. Two gold and two silver earned Katie Ledecky $125,000, and both will receive bonuses from USA Swimming on top of that.
Both will be handsomely rewarded for leading the United States in the pool. With one medal, though, athletes from Singapore could surpass them.
The country has the most generous medal bonus of any surveyed. A gold for any of its 23 athletes will earn them $1 million.