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Every golfer knows that the places to make the most money from the game are the PGA Tour for men, and the LPGA for women.

But, according to new research, the Olympic Games can be lucrative, too, depending on which country you come from.

Ezra, the leading provider of digital coaching, has revealed how much money an Olympic athlete can expect to receive in reward for winning a gold medal.

With the latest edition of the quadrennial sporting showcase getting underway in Tokyo starting this weekend, athletes from across the world are in the final stages of preparing for a competition that would have been hosted last year if not for the pandemic.

Approximately 10,000 athletes will partake in the Tokyo Games, all competing for one of roughly 300 gold medals up for grabs.

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But what is a gold medal actually worth to the winning athletes?

The answer varies from one Olympic nation to another, with the money usually being paid by the individual Olympic committees.

Of the ten nations that won the most gold medals at the 2016 games in Rio, Italy awards their gold-winning athletes the most generous prize: $185,000. At the Rio games, Italy won eight gold medals, bringing the athletes’ total gold medal money haul to just under $1.5m.

The second-highest gold medal prize money is awarded by Russia who pay $62,600 per medal. In Rio 2016, Russia won 19 gold medals, bringing the cash prize total to just under $1.2m.

The USA pays its athletes $25,000 for a gold medal. In Rio, they won an impressive total of 46, more than any other nation,  creating a cash prize total of over $1.1m.

China’s Olympic committee pays its athletes $30,000 for a gold medal. In Rio, they won 26, creating a prize total of $780,000.

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Among the top ten most successful gold medal-winning nations at Rio 2016, there is just one that doesn’t give a single penny of victory money to its athletes – Great Britain.

Team GB does not pay a gold medal bonus, but during Rio 2016, the country’s athletes won 27 gold medals, ranking second only to the USA after pushing China into third.

It’s important to note that the gold medal prize money will only be a portion of an athlete’s income. British gold medallists, for example, may not receive direct prize money from their Olympic committee, but the sponsorship deals and endorsements that will come as a result of a gold medal performance will provide a very handsome income for the individual athletes.

Founder of Ezra, Nick Goldberg, commented: “Olympic athletes have an unbelievable amount of dedication, resilience, and courage, not to mention skill and technical ability. They need to, as winning gold requires an unimaginable amount of work.

“Money is often used to motivate hard work. Sometimes, it works very effectively, but there are limitations that we can see reflected in this data.

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“If money was the best motivator, the best way of creating individual and collective success, we would expect the top of the medals table to be populated by those nations that award their athletes the most prize money. But that’s not what we see at all. Instead, the most generous prize money is provided by Italy and yet they finish only ninth in the table with a total of eight gold medals.”

author headshot

Michael McEwan is the Deputy Editor of bunkered and has been part of the team since 2004. In that time, he has interviewed almost every major figure within the sport, from Jack Nicklaus, to Rory McIlroy, to Donald Trump. The host of the multi award-winning bunkered Podcast and a member of Balfron Golfing Society, Michael is the author of three books and is the 2023 PPA Scotland 'Writer of the Year' and 'Columnist of the Year'. Dislikes white belts, yellow balls and iron headcovers. Likes being drawn out of the media ballot to play Augusta National.

Deputy Editor

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