Gold Medal Doesn’t Equal Mega Bucks for Canada’s Olympians

The following is an excerpt from an article posted at

Alexandre Bilodeau may have won the hearts of Canadians at the 2010 Olympics, but his gold medal in moguls isn’t likely to make him a multi-millionaire.

A comfortable living and perhaps a small nest egg upon retirement are the best financial rewards Canadian gold medallists can hope for in the wake of the Vancouver Games.

If you take hockey player Sidney Crosby out of the equation — because comparing his earning power to other Canadian Olympians is an apples-and-oranges proposition — Bilodeau could be the top earner from the Canadian crop of gold medallists in Vancouver.

“Some people say it could reach between $200,000 and $500,000 (annually), but I think that’s a little bit optimistic,” says University of Laval sports marketing professor Andre Richelieu. “I would say $200,000 or $250,000 in Canada for Alexandre Bilodeau would be a good number.”

The moment when Bilodeau won Canada’s first Olympic gold medal on home soil will be stamped in the minds of Canadians for years to come, which gives the Rosemere, Que., native staying power and a broad reach in the minds of marketers.

Bilodeau is in a sport that thousands of Canadians do every winter. It’s also a sport that has several competing gear manufacturers who would like to attach Bilodeau to their brand.

Bilodeau also comes from a province that is aligning itself to bid for the Winter Olympics of 2022 or 2026, so expect him to be front and centre during that campaign.

But Bilodeau himself doesn’t know what his financial outlook is or his sport future for that matter. He’s committed to competing another season but hasn’t decided yet if he’ll continue to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. That decision could factor into his earning power.

“I’m not doing skiing for finance,” Bilodeau says. “I ski for fun and for my passion. If I make money on the side for my studies and after that, it’s a bonus.

“If you don’t play hockey, men’s, and if you don’t do the 100 metres and you win, I don’t think anyone can be a millionaire competing as an amateur athlete.”

Actually you can, if you are American.

Forbes magazine did not include one Canadian on its list of the top-10 money-earning athletes from the 2010 Winter Olympics. American snowboarder Shaun White and South Korean figure skater Kim Yu-Na were tied at the top with an estimated US$8 million in earnings.

The list, heavy with American snowboarders, included skier Lindsey Vonn at (US$3 million) at No. 3, short-track speedskater Apollo Anton Ohno (US$1.5 million) at No. 5 and German skier Maria Riesch (US$1 million) at No. 10.

There is a ceiling on what Canada’s Olympic champions earn that doesn’t exist in the U.S. The American culture of athlete adulation and a consumer market 10 times bigger than Canada’s are the main factors in White’s ability to become a multi-millionaire.

Click here to read the entire article.


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