The United States is ordinarily a top medal contender at the Winter Olympics. In Vancouver in 2010 it won 37 medals, the most ever won by a nation in the Winter Olympics, and its nine golds were tied for third-most at the Games. Four years earlier in Italy, the United States took home 25 medals, second-most behind Germany’s 29.
This year things got off to a bit of a slow start, due partly to a favored speed skating team failing to medal so far (possibly the result of ill-made uniforms). But America jumped toward the top of the leaderboard in recent days, thanks largely to a podium sweep in ski slopestyle. In fact, action sports have been the United States’ bread and butter, with eight of its 16 medals coming in slopestyle or halfpipe events.
The United States currently has 16 medals, just one behind the lead held by Netherlands. And those medal winners are well-rewarded for their success. The U.S. Olympic Committee pays out a $25,000 bonus per gold medal, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze. (The money does not come from the U.S. government — the USOC gets its money from the sale of broadcast rights, licensing and trademark income, and corporate sponsorships.)
Those bonuses actually pale in comparison to some other nations – Russia pays $114,000 for a gold, and Kazakhstan leads the list with a $250,000 gold medal bonus – but America’s typical massive medal hauls mean big overall payouts. Last year the USOC paid $1.48 million to athletes who brought home a medal. After the Turin Games in 2006, it paid $720,000.
So far this year the USOC owes $240,000 to its 23 medalists (eight figure skaters comprised the group that took bronze in the team competition). That payout is sure to increase in the coming days, particularly because of success in hockey. The women’s team is expected to play Canada in the gold medal game, and the men’s team earned a bye to the semifinals with a 5-1 victory over Slovenia this morning. If both hockey teams land on the podium, the USOC will owe bonuses to 46 players; if both win gold, that’s $1.15 million just in hockey bonuses.
Germany, which leads the Games with seven gold medals, currently owes some $200,000. Canada, which is another favorite to take home two hockey medals, now owes just under $190,000.
Source: Forbes Business