One of the biggest changes that have taken place in the history of the Olympic games happened in 1988 when professional athletes were finally allowed to participate in the competitions subject to the approval of their respective international sports federations. As a result, some of the biggest earners in all of sports started to show up at the games to try to add an Olympic gold medal to their list of achievements. With Sochi right around the corner, NHL fans are gearing up to cheer on their home teams and some of their favourite players in what promised to be an exciting competition.
But perhaps the best example of this reform in action was how beginning in 1992, the United States has been able to send a “Dream Team” composed of active NBA players to the Olympics. This allowed the country to win five of the six gold medals since then and changed the financial profile of the Olympic games forever. Superstars like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird playing together on one team for the glory of their country is definitely a sight that most basketball fans will never forget.
In order to come up with a varied list of today’s highest-paid athletes to have won a gold medal, only one athlete per event is featured, female events being considered unique from their male counterparts’ events. Otherwise, the list would have been dominated by today’s NBA superstars.
With this consideration in mind, here are 7 of today’s highest-paid athletes who have won an Olympic gold medal, their earnings collected between June 2012 and June 2013.
7. Serena Williams – United States – Tennis / $20.5 Million
After participating in three Olympics, Serena Williams has collected four gold medals – three in women’s doubles, all with sister Venus (2000, 2008, 2012) and one in the women’s singles event (2012). As a result, Serena and Venus are the only female tennis players to have ever won four gold medals in the Olympics (Venus also won a gold medal in singles at the 2000 games in Syndey, Australia).
In fact, Serena’s victory in the singles event of the 2012 Summer Games made her only the second player after Steffi Graf to have won all four grand slam singles titles and an Olympic gold medal in the same year. Add to that $54 million in career prize money so far, and you’ve got the credentials of one of the most accomplished sportswomen of all time. Her endorsement money this year has greatly exceeded her $8.5 million tennis winnings, bringing her earnings up to $20.5 million.