Every American that makes the podium in PyeongChang doesn't just get a hefty medal. In addition to their hardware (and little stuffed tigers!), any winners from Team USA will also receive a five-figure check from United States Olympic Committee.
The has incentivized athletes with fat wads of cash since the 1994 Olympics, and kept up with the payouts ever since. Gold, silver, and bronze placements earn $37,000, $22,500, and $15,000 respectively, a big bump from the Rio awards. In team sports, each member splits the winnings evenly, but individuals get the whole kit and caboodle.
The funds come from private donors, not tax payers, and sports' own governing bodies may sweeten the pot with other rewards. While Uncle Sam used take a cut of the earnings, a new law stopped the practice after the Rio Games. The legislation makes an exception for high-profile athletes, however. Earning more than $1 million per year causes the taxation to kick back in.
Given the time and commitment it takes to become dominant in a sport, the financial bonus can come as a big help. While celebs Shaun White and Lindsey Vonn rake in money via endorsement deals, most Olympians work part-time jobs or even maintain full-blown careers outside of their training. For example, works a plumber and does 12-hour shifts as a registered nurse.
While there's less of an overlap in the Winter Olympics, the does allow amateur athletes to accept the prize money despite its strict rules concerning endorsements and gifts. That means college hockey players Jordan Greenway, Troy Terry, Will Borgen, and Ryan Donato could cash checks for a star turn performance.
Other countries like Australia, France, and China maintain similar programs, but the United Kingdom stands out as one notable exception: Brits compete on pride and honor alone. While the athletes receive zero pounds, the government does fund sports with medal potential, a controversial but effective strategy that led to 27 golds in Rio.