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Fourth-Place Medal

Do medals mean money? A look at Olympic bonuses

Fourth-Place Medal

(Getty)

Last week, CNN took a look at how many American Olympians are struggling financially. Outside of the privileged few in marquee sports, becoming an Olympian is not a financial boon. Even winning a medal doesn't guarantee financial success.

The United States Olympic Committee pays out medal bonuses: $25,000 goes to gold medal winners, $15,000 for silver medals and $10,000 for bronze. Those bonuses have not changed in a decade. With inflation, the bonuses have actually dropped in value by $5,429.91 in the past 10 years.

[ Photos: Close-ups of Olympic medals ]

For some sports and athletes, additional bonuses are available. Speedo gave Michael Phelps a $1 million bonus for winning eight gold medals in 2008, which he donated to charity. Depending on how he performs in London, Ryan Lochte is expected to earn six-figure bonuses from Gatorade, Speedo and other major sponsors.

After wrestling came home with just one gold medal in 2008, supporters started the Living the Dream Medal Fund, which will give a quarter of a million dollars to any American wrestler who wins gold. Silvers will get $50,000 and bronzes $25,000. Both the sport-specific and corporate sponsored bonuses are in addition to the USOC.

[ Related: London's preparations under siege as Olympics near ]

In other countries, a medal is a major windfall for athletes, regardless of their sport or marketability. No Malaysian has won gold since 1956, but if one does this year, he or she will receive a solid gold bar valued at $600,000 from a gold mine owner in Kuala Lumpur. For the 2010 Winter Olympics, Russians received $135,000 for gold medals. Russian bronze medalists take home $54,000, more than American gold medalists get.

Meanwhile, 83 USOC executives earned six-figure salaries in 2011. Fourteen of those staff members earned more than $230,000. The U.S. has the unquestionably most successful Olympic program in the world, leading the all-time gold medal count with 1,016 and overall count with 2,549. But will it continue if Olympians aren't rewarded as well as the suits at the USOC?

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