For well-known Olympians like Shaun White and Lindsey Vonn, taking home a medal only boosts their earnings. But not all sports are lucrative. Take luge, for example.
Fan favorite Chris Mazdzer earned silver at the 2018 PyeongChang Games, becoming the first American man to ever medal in the sport. He'll earn around $22,500 from the U.S. for his achievement. "It may not be a lot, but then afterward a lot of our costs are covered — now I am fortunate enough to not have to worry about financials for the next four years," he told Wealthsimple in a recent interview.
But outside of the Olympics, luge doesn't offer much prize money, even for top competitors. Mazdzer estimates that he earned a mere $700 throughout the entire season before PyeongChang. He also received a small stipend from the U.S. Luge Association to cover his cost of living.
In 2015, Mazdzer had a fantastic season, medaling at five out of nine World Cup races and ranking third in the world. But even at the top of his game, that season he only took home around $14,000 in prize money and received $2,000 per month, the maximum monthly stipend, from the U.S.L.A.
"I had a dream season, I couldn't have really done much better," he says.
He started competing in luge at age 13 and easily took to the sport, attending the Junior World Cup with kids five years his senior. He also quickly realized how expensive luge was. His parents ended up paying around $3,000 per year for him to train and compete, while the U.S. Luge Association covered another $20,000 worth of expenses.
As he got older, and even after he competed at his first Olympics in 2010, Mazdzer had to work odd jobs throughout the year to make ends meet. He'd spent nights bartending and summers covering weddings.
In addition to not bringing in much income, the sport itself is laden with expenses, including custom-designed sleds and tracks that charge $20-to-$30 per run by Mazdzer's estimate.
Although Mazdzer isn't raking in cash, he has no regrets about the time he's invested in luge. "Nobody is going to retire on what they make in luge," he told Sports Illustrated. "But I love the sport, and that's why you do it — because you love it. Otherwise you'll never be happy with yourself."
Post-Olympics, he's ready to head in a new direction. He has plans to pursue a career as a certified financial planner.
"I would love to have the opportunity to make that difference in someone's life," he told CNBC. "Money is a pretty serious part of everyone's life, whether we choose to accept it or not."
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