A lot of people are under the impression that Olympic athletes earn megabucks, but that’s rarely actually the case. As an Olympic athlete, depending on which country you’re representing, what sport you’re participating in, and whether that sport gets a decent amount, if any, funding from your country’s sports committee or whoever’s in charge of dishing out the cash, you could end up hardly earning a penny. Plenty of athletes around the world work a number of jobs and aren’t able to apply themselves to the sport they love full time, and end up funding their Olympic journeys themselves – an admirable feat, especially since other athletes have it a tad more cushy.
Many athletes however, are able to dedicate themselves to their craft on a full time basis, and generally speaking, they’re able to accomplish a lot more, and even achieve fame and fortune because of it. After starting out as just another athlete, they rise to the top, become known throughout the world for their feats, and that’s when the money starts coming in – well, that’s the way of things for a lot of Olympic athletes anyway. Others have built upon this success and have gone on to pursue other business ventures, meaning their bank balances have just continued to swell.
This article isn’t necessarily about those who gained fame and fortune because of the Olympics, when they were Olympic athletes. It’s about those who are seriously wealthy today; some acquired their wealth before competing, some because of what they achieved during their time at the Olympic Games, and many who got rich after the Olympics. Whatever their specific situations may be, one thing’s for sure, and that’s that these are some seriously wealthy Olympians!
15. Jessica Ennis-Hill
Jessica Ennis-Hill is the darling of the British Olympics. She’s only just retired from her multi-eventing disciplines, after the Rio Olympics, but can certainly enjoy life, a tad more in the slow lane, after a whirlwind of a career as Britain’s star athlete.
She truly was brilliant as a track and field athlete, and was expected to win – which she almost always did – when she laced up her shoes and took to the track. Her talent was recognized when she was quite young, and luckily for Jess, she got funding to train, so as she grew up, she became an integral part of the British athletics team and was able to dedicate herself to her training and preparation full time.
When she began winning pretty much every competition she entered, her face began getting picked up more and more; she started appearing on talk shows, became a minor TV personality, and more importantly – which is where all the cash came from – companies were eager to get her on board and she began getting a ton of sponsorship deals and endorsements. She’s a newspaper columnist, has many advertising deals, and she’s one of the hottest Olympians around too, which certainly helps companies she’s attached to sell their products and services, hence why they’re prepared to offer her a hefty sum of cash.
14. Novak Djokovic
Okay , so, Novak Djokovic has earned pretty much all of his money though tennis, through playing on the Grand Slam circuit, and it’s safe to say he’s barely earned a penny playing in the Olympics. But for people such as Novak, athletes earning megabucks, participating in the Olympic Games isn’t about the cash, it’s about representing your country and trying to earn a medal for your nation.
Out on the tennis circuit, playing Grand Slam tournaments, you’re of course representing your country, but it’s more about you and your personal achievements. But at the Olympics, it’s all for your country, and that’s why people like Novak love putting on their nation’s shirt – not to earn cash.
13. Sania Mirza
Sania Mirza is one of the hottest, most famous, and wealthiest female tennis players around. It might puzzle a lot of you when I say she’s one of the most famous tennis players, because unless you’re into your doubles tennis, it’s unlikely that you’re going to have heard of her. She applies her trade on the doubles scene, and has become one of the best in recent years too. She’s also Indian, and so has the backing of a 6th of the world’s population, plus tennis fans all around the world. And trust me when I say that pretty much everyone in India knows her name; she’s hot, has a ton of endorsement deals, is always appearing on TV shows, chat shows, parties with the rich and famous in India, and is one of the country’s biggest female sporting celebrities.
Sania hasn’t had the best of times at the Olympics, but like Novak in the previous entry, that’s not where she’s earned her corn; she represents India at the Olympics to try and win a medal for her country, but unfortunately for her sake and India’s, she hasn’t been successful.
12. Sergio Garcia
Sergio Garcia must have been absolutely thrilled when it was announced that golf would be making a return to the Rio Olympics. Not many golf pros have had the chance to compete at an Olympic Games, considering it hasn’t been an Olympic sport for a staggering 112 years, but Sergio was one of the lucky few, and got to represent his country in 2016. He didn’t enjoy the success he would’ve hoped for, tying in for eighth place, but his mission was to grow the sport of golf, around the world and in particularly in his home country of Spain, and he’d certainly feel he did just that.
Despite not setting the world alight at the Olympics, due to all of his other achievements in the sport, he’s certainly one of Spain’s greatest ever Olympians. He’s also one of Spain’s, and the world’s for that matter, wealthiest Olympians, having been on the pro golf circuit since 1999, winning plenty to tours and championships, and millions in prize money in the process.
11. Inbee Park
Here’s another pro golfer, someone who’s earned way more prize money that Sergio Garcia over the years, but still someone who’s less famous, someone most people have probably never heard of. Not that Inbee Park would care; she’s one of, if not the best, female pro golfer in the world and has amassed a sizeable fortune because of her feats on the golf course, and due to the various sponsorship deals she’s had over the years, especially in Asia.
Female golfers tend not to get the same kind of recognition as their male counterparts, but Park is certainly the exception, especially after she triumphed at the 2016 Olympics. I’ve mentioned how it was the first time golfers had made an appearance at the Olympics since 1904, which made Park’s gold medal all the more special. She was one of the first golfers at the Olympics to earn gold, and the first woman in 116 years to do so, and she did so comfortably in the end, proving her dominance in the world of female golf.
10. Kevin Durant
As far as basketball players go, Kevin Durant is one of the best and is one of the richest too. He’s currently on a salary of $26.54M, and at the age of 28, has amassed a fortune. He’s also unlike many other NBA pros, in that he doesn’t flash the cash, shelling out for lavish parties, fancy cars, massive mansions, etc. He’s an avid philanthropist and dedicates a large portion of his time to charitable causes, something that’s earned him plenty of praise.
When the Olympics come around and the U.S. team is announced, Kevin’s a shoo-in; his name is always going to be the first name on the team sheet. He’s been very successful at the Olympics too, having won a couple of gold medals, one in 2012 at the London Olympics, and the second most recently at the Rio games. This makes him a highly decorated Olympian, to go along with all of his other achievements in basketball. And he’s one of the nicest and wealthiest Olympic athletes too – sounds like the perfect pro sportsman!
9. Serena Williams
Serena Williams is just a phenomenal sportswoman. She’s dominated women’s tennis for, well, the past decade or so, and has recently become the most successful female tennis player in history, surpassing Steffi Graf’s record of Grand Slam wins. She’s been in the news quite a bit recently, because she’s pregnant with her first child, and it was discovered she was pregnant when she won her last Grand Slam, at the Australian Open, which she won with ease – what a beast of a tennis player! In addition to her Grand Slam victories, the golden girl of tennis is literally just that, a highly decorated Olympic athlete, having won three gold medals for team U.S.A. So, it’s therefore no surprise she’s won a ton of prize money over the years, more than everyone else on the female pro tennis circuit, and she’s up there with being the highest paid female athlete on the planet, with sponsorship and endorsement deals from some global brands such as Nike falling into her lap. She is actually the highest paid female athlete on the planet, with $28.9M in earnings last year, plus over $20M in endorsements. She also enjoys lucrative bonuses due to her record-breaking feats – this is one athlete who just continues raking it in.
You’ve got to have a football, or soccer – depending on where you’re from! – player on this list, because if you’re good enough to represent your country at the Olympic Games, chances are you’re playing for a decent club in one of the world’s top leagues and are therefore enjoying a pretty lucrative salary. Over the past five years, very few have been raking in the cash as much as Neymar. He’s been described as a phenomenon, and those who have seen him play, whether it’s for his club, Barcelona, or for the Brazilian national team, would know that that’s a just description.
When it comes to Olympic football, very few countries pick their strongest side, the squads they’d pick for a major footballing event, like the World Cup for example, preferring to give other players who are perhaps on the fringes of national selection a chance. But Neymar, with Rio being his home Olympic Games, wasn’t about to be rested. His club boss pleaded with the selectors not to pick him, wanting him to rest and have the summer off, but Neymar was adamant about wanting to play, and he did, as captain. It was a fairy tale tournament for him, with his team winning gold on their home soil in their home Olympics, and Neymar ended up being instrumental in their victory.
7. Saina Nehwal
If Sania Mirza is the darling of India’s female Olympic team, or of Indian sport in general, Saina Nehwal isn’t too far behind. She receives a huge amount of popularity due to what she’s done on the badminton court, has the backing of a billion plus fans, and like Sania, earns her way through endorsement deals, partaking in photoshoots, talk shows, advertisements etc. It’s a huge business in India, and Sania, due to her exploits, has gotten herself a rather big piece of the pie.
Saina is the former world number one and has always been around in the top ten since 2009. She’s won a stack of titles, has received plenty of honors in India due to what she’s done for the sport of badminton, helping to popularize the game, and has represented India three times at the Olympics, winning bronze her second time around. Saina is without doubt one of India’s most successful sportswomen, and this is reflected through her earnings, through the companies wanting to get her on board.
6. Zara Phillips
Including Zara Phillips on a list like this was a no-brainer. Unlike others on this list, she was born wealthy, being a member of the British Royal Family and all, and not just distantly related either. She’s the second-eldest grandchild of Queen Elizabeth II, the current Queen of England, and like her relatives before her, she’s an accomplished equestrian. She’s got sponsorship deals, endorsements, the whole lot, and the backing of the Royal Family which must count for something.
Being an equestrian, the Olympics is the highlight of the sporting calendar. She was due to participate in 2008, but suffered an injury, but was announced as being part of the British Equestrian team for the 2012 London Olympic Games. She did decently too, winning a silver medal in team eventing, a medal which was presented to her by her mom, Princess Anne, which must have been a slightly cringeworthy moment for Zara!
5. Caitlyn Jenner
Bruce Jenner, now Caitlyn Jenner, is arguably the biggest star on this list, and one of the wealthiest. Back then, Bruce personified the all-American hero due to his feats at the 1976 Olympics, making him, what many believed to be the greatest athlete on the planet. That was a while back, and although I’m sure plenty of today’s generation still hear about his exploits, he’s now more famous for being a member of the Kardashian family, being married to Kris, for being a dad and stepdad to the current crop of the Kardashian-Jenner clan, and for having his life documented for the cameras over the years with the Keeping Up with the Kardashians reality TV series. During this time, Bruce got a hefty salary, as you’d expect, but also earned his fortune by making appearances and with his motivational speaking seminars.
I’ve been referring to Caitlyn as “he” and as “Bruce” because that’s who she was during those Olympic glory days, and until pretty recently. Bruce is now Caitlyn, becoming the most famous openly transgender woman in the world. This has started a new period in her life, one that’s opened more doors which Caitlyn’s gleefully gone through, doors that have led to more money-making opportunities and arguably more fame and fortune.
4. Lee Chong Wei
Here’s another badminton player on this list, and this time it’s Lee Chong Wei, a professional badminton player from Malaysia. Who knew badminton could be such a lucrative sport? It’s not really spoken about as a sport in which you can earn a ton of cash. But if you’re the best and have dominated the sport for so long, as Lee has, the money’s going to come, especially with Lee being from Asia and from a region where badminton is a pretty big deal. Actually, having said that, badminton is deemed to be the second most popular sport in the world, second only to soccer! Because of this, Lee’s one of the greatest sportsmen in the world, and with that comes plenty of riches. He’s Asia’s highest-paid athlete and has amassed a sizeable fortune over the years.
Lee’s been dominating the world of badminton for a long time, but it’s at the Olympics where he was propelled onto the world stage and became a truly global sporting superstar. He has participated in three Olympic Games and has won silver in each, but those accomplishments, as great as they are, pails in significance to his overall title haul.
3. Michael Phelps
Michael Phelps is the greatest Olympian of all time, period. He’s the world’s most decorated Olympic athlete and is someone who wins medals for fun when he competes. It’s as if the guy was born in the water, because swimming just comes incredibly naturally to him, and combine that with a ton of hard work and training, and Phelps is unstoppable in the pool.
Because he’s got a staggering 23 Olympic gold medals, understandably he’s one of the world’s greatest athletes. Being from the U.S., this success has translated into fame and fortune, and although Olympic athletes are paid in the form of cash bonuses and rewards, in Phelps’ case, his feats in the pool have opened up plenty of other doors for him, business opportunities which he’s explored, not to mention endorsement deals from which Phelps earns the majority of his cash. Due to all of his medals and the cash rewards he’s received from team U.S.A. because of his victories, Phelps is loaded, but add to that all of his other endorsement deals and Phelps is not only one of the richest Olympic athletes, but one of the wealthiest sportsmen on the planet.
2. Wladimir Klitschko
Wladimir Klitschko’s been at the top of his game – or was – and was heavyweight champion for so long, ruling over the heavyweight division, that many people forget where it all started. Today’s generation of boxing fans have been used to the Klitschko brothers having all the belts, and although they’re not the most glamorous, exciting fighters on the planet, they’re effective and know what they have to do to get the job done and stay at the helm of the heavyweight division.
Wladimir can thank his brother, Vitali Klitschko, for getting him into boxing. He wanted to emulate his big brother’s success, and his career’s pretty much mirrored Vitali’s right from their Olympic days. Wladimir first came onto the world stage at the 1996 Olympic Games, where he won gold in the super heavyweight division. He turned pro that same year and went on to become one of the greatest heavyweights in boxing history. Boxers get a hefty pay packet, and on top of that, plenty of endorsement deals, and so Wladimir’s been raking it in ever since he established himself as a champion in the ring.
1. Usain Bolt
Who else was going to be number one on this list but Usain Bolt! The guy’s just a phenomenal Olympian, a freak show of an individual on the track, and is also one of the nicest, down to earth and most charismatic people on the Olympic scene. He’s an eight-time Olympic gold medallist, shatters records for fun, and is just a lightning bolt on the track, the fastest man on the planet.
His popularity transcends to those who aren’t even necessarily interested in the Olympics or athletics; even these people tune in to see the lightning bolt strike, and although it’s all over in a matter of seconds, the theatre that Bolt brings to the track alone is worth sticking around for. It’s therefore no surprise that Bolt’s on this list. With him being the fastest man on the planet – a glamorous title to have – business opportunities and endorsement deals continue to fall into his lap, and he’s had some massive ones over the years, meaning he’s super-wealthy in addition to being super-fast.
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