What Country Pays Their Olympic Athletes the Most for Winning Medals?

Taking home a gold medal might not be worth as much as you think

Gold medallist Su Yiming of Team China celebrates during the men’s snowboard Big Air medal ceremony. Not all Olympic athletes get paid for winning a medal. We took a look at the countries that pay the most.
Gold medallist Su Yiming of Team China celebrates during the men’s snowboard Big Air medal ceremony.
David Ramos/Getty

In addition to leaving the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Games with Singapore’s first-ever gold medal after setting a new Olympic record in the men’s 100-meter butterfly with a time of 50.39 seconds, swimmer Joseph Schooling came home with nearly one million dollars.

Singapore, which had only won two silvers and two bronzes prior to Schooling’s win since it joined the Olympic fold in 1948, rewards athletes who secure individual gold medals with one million Singapore dollars, about $737,000 in U.S. currency. (The prize money is taxable and the winning recipients are required to return a portion of it to their national sports associations for future training and development, per CNBC.)

The biggest spender by far, Singapore is followed on the gold medal payout list by Kazakhstan (about $250,000), Italy ($213,000) and the Philippines ($200,000). The U.S., which had American athletes take home 39 gold, 41 silver and 33 bronze medals at the rescheduled 2021 Summer Games, pays its top winners $37,500 per individual gold medal.

However, even though the International Olympic Committee does not pay prize money to medalists, only 32 of the 91 countries competing at the Beijing Winter Olympics offer a financial bonus to Olympians who bring home a medal, according to Forbes.  Norway, which topped the medal table at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics with a total of 39, doesn’t pay a dime for medals.

Luckily for taxpayers in Singapore, the Southeast Asian country doesn’t have any athletes competing at the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing. In the U.S., athletes who win gold, silver or bronze become taxpayers and are subject to ponying up a  so-called “victory tax.” At least they used to be.

Following the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, former President Barack Obama signed the United States Appreciation for Olympians and Paralympians Act, which states a person’s taxable income would not include any prize money for participation in Olympic or Paralympic Games. Per the law, taxable income also cannot include the value of any medal.

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