What Do Winter Olympic Sports Pay? Medal Winners All Earn The Same Amount, But Outside Of The Games Is A Different Story

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With everyone getting excited about the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, you’ve probably been more curious about winter sports than usual. The Olympics are one of my favorite traditions because it brings together people from all across the world to celebrate the hard work of athletes who have been training their butts off to get a chance to compete. But whether those sports pay off is a matter of some debate. Some Winter Olympics sports pay well, while others are less lucrative than you might think.

While American medal-winning individual athletes and teams all receive the same prize amount regardless of sport and medal tier from the United States Olympic Committee, the pay for athletes when they’re not competing at the Olympics varies greatly. There are some existing programs designed to help out Olympic athletes financially. The USOC director of communications Christy Cahill tells Bustle, “The USOC has a program called 'Operation Gold,' which rewards athletes for top finishes in a sport’s most competitive senior international competition of the year. The payments vary by year, based on proximity to the Games.”

She continues, “We have a program called the Athlete Career & Education Program that assists athletes with their non-competition careers. In 2017, a total of 1,654 athletes were part of ACE and we had 129 job placements (90 part-time, 39 full-time). Finally, our sponsor DICK’S Sporting Goods has something called the Contenders Program, which offers flexible work schedules and a competitive wages to athletes training to be part of Team USA.”

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But just because Winter Olympic athletes are in the spotlight for these few weeks every few years, that doesn't mean that they get necessarily paid accordingly as they're practicing their sport between Olympics. Ahead, you’ll find some information about how much athletes in different winter sports get paid.

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While you may have wanted to be a professional bobsledder ever since seeing the movie Cool Runnings, the sport won’t necessarily In 2013, Olympic bobsledder Lolo Jones posted a Vine revealing that she was paid a little over $741 for seven months of bobsledding, according to Bleacher Report. Olympic gold medalist Steven Holcomb responded to Jones by saying, "You just made $741, more than most athletes in the sport. So what are you complaining about?" according to reporting from USA Today. The earnings of other bobsledders isn't widely reported.


Robert Cianflone/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

According to The Toronto Star, it's possible survive off the money made by being a full-time curler, but only if you win. Prize money can exceed $200,000 per competition and Sport Canada pays some curlers $1,500 per month. But it can be expensive to compete in the first place: the Star reported that it cost one curling team around $100,000 for the season, "including the cost of flights, hotels, meals and entry fees."

3Ice Hockey

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If you’re interested in learning a sport that could potentially make you a multi-millionaire, look no further than ice hockey. According to Forbes, the highest paid hockey player during the 2017-2018 National Hockey League season, Jonathan Toews, is set to make $16 million in salary and endorsements. Lesser known players can still make hundreds of thousands of dollars per season, according to Forbes. For female hockey players on the same elite level, however, there is a significant pay gap: in 2016, the CBC reported that the NWHL was cutting salaries to range from $10,000 to $26,000 per year.

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According to the Houston Chronicle, professional snowboarders who are just starting out only get paid with free equipment until they can prove they can win competitions and attract fans. After winning some competitions, snowboarders can get paid in more free equipment, free entry to competitions, and a salary of up to $1,000 a month. Top snowboarding prizes rarely top $100,000, but Forbes reported that Shaun White made $9 million in sponsorships in 2008.

5Long Track Speed Skating

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Long track speed skating isn’t known for paying the bills. In 2010, the New York Times reported that Jilleanne Rookard, an Olympic speed skater, received a $1,000 check after making an appeal to the Wisconsin Speedskating Association board regarding "a cash deficit." Other long track speed skaters had to rely on fundraising to earn money, according to the Times.

6Ski Jumping

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Severin Freund, an accomplished ski jumper, reported making around $39,000 in prize money during the first month of the 2016/2017 Winter Cup to ISPO. Most professional ski jumpers rely on prize money for income, according to ISPO, so the annual earnings of ski jumpers can vary greatly.

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