Winning an Olympic medal is the thrill of a lifetime for an athlete. What some don’t know, however, is that the prize brings its winner some cold, hard cash.


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Winning an Olympic medal is the thrill of a lifetime for an athlete. What some don't know, however, is that the prize brings its winner some cold, hard cash.

As with anything, a gold medal’s true value depends on your point of view. The organization that hands out medals may value them very differently than the individual who wins one. 

A gold medal in a popular sport can mean million-dollar endorsements deals, commentating gigs, and more.

But sports without vibrant business models and followings will prevent a gold medal from earning much beyond fame in a small niche community.

How much a collector is willing to pay for such a medal is a different animal altogether, as is how much the medal’s metal would be worth if it were melted down.

Every sport, athlete, and family has different amounts of “investment” needed, and it’s probably too difficult to calculate an average expenditure in a meaningful way due to the massive variance. 

Training full time, sacrificing studies and jobs, can have huge opportunity costs as well, as missing out on necessary education and prime years of work experience take tolls on later earnings.

American athletes winning medals at the Rio Olympic Games receive a cash prize from the U.S. Olympic Committee.

The awards vary based on the medal won: gold medal winners receive $25,000; silver $15,000; and bronze $10,000. 

Those awards are on top of the actual value of a "gold" medal - a mixture of a small amount of 24-karat gold, some copper and a big dose of silver – at around $366 for the Rio games.

Some countries pay their medal winners even more. Kazakhstan pays gold medalists $250,000; Malaysia promises its medalists a solid gold bar worth $600,000. Members of the Italian Olympic Team can receive $189,800 for a gold medal; Russians receive $189,800.

There's some bad news that goes along with that payout, though.

Any money paid to a U.S. athlete for a medal win is classified as "earned income abroad " and considered taxable income by the IRS.

For athletes with the highest-earnings – a rare few – that tax bill could equal $9,900 per gold medal, $5,940 per silver medal, and $3,960 per bronze medal.

The actual amount of money owed depends on their individual tax circumstances.

The idea of Olympic medal winners paying taxes on their prizes has rankled lawmakers for years.

Several past proposals have tried to do away with the medal taxes, albeit unsuccessfully.

Three-hundred and six sets of medals will be awarded in Rio.

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