The 20 Richest Olympic Athletes
Most Olympic athletes scrape by for the love of their sport. But these 20 have the economic power of small countries.
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Being an Olympian seems pretty romantic. The Games often transcend sport (remember The Miracle On Ice?), and for two weeks its athletes become the most watched people on the planet.
But for most Olympians, the four years leading up to the games are not glitzy. The majority have day jobs and struggle to train while also paying the bills. That’s because most Olympic sports just aren’t lucrative—hello, trampoline and canoe slalom—and, thanks to travel, training, and equipment costs, participation at an elite level actually costs anywhere from $12,000 to $120,000 per year. More than half of the nation’s top ten track and field athletes, for example, make less than $15,000 from their sport annually.
Yet a handful of Olympians manage to live in a glamorous bubble, thanks to success in sports with big purses and contracts, plus big corporate sponsors. Of the 11,000 athletes from 206 countries, these 20, from basketball to badminton players, bring in the big bucks. Unsurprisingly and unfortunately, the richest male athletes make significantly more than their female counterparts (except for Serena—she's getting paid).
1. Serena Williams
Net Worth: $150 Million
Serena has made double the amount of prize money than any other female athlete—ever. She’s managed to build herself into a culturally relevant brand that extends beyond the court, which is why Nike originally signed her to a $40 million sponsorship deal in 2004.
2. Venus Williams
Net worth: $75 Million
When Venus entered professional tennis, Clinton was in his first term, the band Ace of Base was atop the Billboard charts, and Tupac was still alive and well. Since then, the 36-year-old has won 21 Grand Slams, started her own clothing company, and inked deals with brands like Kraft and Wilson.
3. Saina Nehwal
Net worth: $24 Million
Called “The Darling Daughter Of India” by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the 26-year-old badminton player is the 1.25 billion-person country’s most successful female athlete of all time. That makes her extremely marketable: Nehwal represents various Indian and international brands.
4. Caroline Wozniacki
Net worth: $20 Million
This year’s sixth highest paid female athlete makes the majority of her dough from sponsorship deals with top dollar brands like Rolex, Proactive, Adidas, and Sony.
5. Agnieszka Radwanska
Net worth: $14.7 Million
“The Professor,” a nickname given to her by other players due to the 27-year-old’s brilliant use of the court, has won more than $23 million in career purses.
6. Jelena Jankovic
Net worth: $15 Million
Serena’s nemesis has raked in more than $18-million in prize money since she started playing pro in 2000.
7. Ana Ivanovic
Net worth: $15 Million
Okay, the Serbian tennis star didn’t turn into the $100-million dollar woman some thought she would a decade ago. But thanks to some big wins like the 2008 French Open and deals with Adidas and Rolex, the 28-year-old surely isn’t destitute.
8. Garbine Muguruza
Net worth: $12 Million
The Spanish-Venezuelan turned pro in 2012, and this year upset Serena in the French Open final. That win not only put the tennis world on notice, but also corporate sponsors—the 22-year-old is currently ranked as the 14th most marketable athlete in the world.
9. Inbee Park
Net worth: $9 Million
Country: South Korea
You may not know it, but South Koreans dominate women’s golf. Among them, Inbee Park is queen. The 28-year-old, who now lives in California, has 25 professional tournament wins, and has spent more than a year as the top ranked female golfer in the world.
10. Eugenie Bouchard
Net worth: $7 Million
Bouchard is the tenth highest paid female athlete in 2016, thanks to endorsement deals with mega brands Coca-Cola and Nike.
1. Novak Djokovic
Net worth: $160 Million
While the 29-year-old bombed in Rio, Djoko is the first tennis player to reap over $100 million in match prize money. Contracts with Uniqlo, Head, and Adidas, and a business and real estate empire in his home country, certainly don’t hurt either. The good news is that all that money hasn’t spoiled him: Djoko is still a pretty great guy.
2. Rafael Nadal
Net worth: $120 Million
Tournament wins have delivered the 30-year-old nearly $80 million over the course of his career. “The King of Clay” is also sponsored by Nike, Kia, and Tommy Hilfiger, among others. Despite his general success, Rafa’s trip to Rio was harrowing. He not only lost a medal match, he was denied Chinese food.
3. Kevin Durant
Net worth: $120 Million
Ballin’ for the Thunder and, this coming season, the Warriors, while cashing checks from Nike, Gatorade, and Degree, has made 27-year-old KD very rich. Forbes says Durant will be worth north of $300 million by 2024.
4. Carmelo Anthony
Net worth: $90 Million
‘Melo signed a five-year, $124 million contract with the Knicks in 2014. The Brooklyn-born small/power forward also has endorsement deals with Jordan Brand, Draft Kings, and Las Vegas Sands. He’s been impressive so far on Team USA, but the jury is out on whether the team is actually any good.
Net worth: $75 Million
As of 2014, the 24-year-old phenom was the fourth highest paid soccer player in the world, raking in about $28 million from his contract and sponsorships each year. His net worth, however, may be as volatile as his on field emotions—Neymar has famously lavish spending habits, and recently bought a $15 million yacht that requires $500,000 a year in upkeep.
6. Andy Murray
Net worth: $70 Million
Country: Great Brittan
Coming off a 2016 Wimbledon victory, the 29-year-old Scott beat Argentine Juan Martin del Potro to take top honors in singles men's tennis at Rio. His sponsors—Under Armour, Jaguar, and Evian, among others—are very happy.
7. Pau Gasol
Net worth: $65 Million
Gasol made his money primarily from lucrative contract deals with the Grizzlies (’01 to ’08), Lakers (’08 to ’14), Bulls (’14 to ‘16), and, now, the Spurs. According to Forbes, Gasol, 36, pulls in a relatively small $2.5 million a year in endorsements (Kevin Durant, for example, makes $36 million a year in endorsements).
8. DeMarcus Cousins
Net worth: $62 Million
The Sacramento Kings’ unstoppable center averaged 27 points and nearly 12 rebounds a game last season. The team is probably glad they signed Boogie, 26, to a massive four-year deal in 2013.
9. Michael Phelps
Net worth: $55 Million
Just two percent of Phelp’s net worth comes from prize money. The rest: sponsorship deals with Under Armour, Visa, and many more. That’s why Phelp’s success in Rio is so important for his long term earning potential—his 2014 DUI frightened some sponsors, but his current sobriety and dominance is an opportunity to rebuild his brand.
10. Lee Chong Wei
Net worth: $45 Million
Yeah, we were surprised, too. But badminton is reportedly the second most popular sport in the world, behind soccer. Consider Wei, 33, the Ronaldo of badminton: he spent nearly four years as the world’s #1 ranked player, and he’s allegedly the highest paid Asian athlete. His fortune makes sense when you watch the man in action—he’s the Bruce Lee of racquet sports.