How Much Does It Cost To Raise An Olympic Swimmer?

joseph schooling

Joseph Schooling made history when he won Singapore’s first Olympic swimming medal with a victory in the 100m fly. He outpaced swim heavyweights Michael Phelps, Chad le Clos, and Laszlo Cseh and finished the race with a record time of 50:39 seconds.

Besides dedication and discipline, aspiring to be an Olympian is an expensive dream. Right after the 2012 London Olympics, it was reported that the families of two winning athletes from Team USA – Ryan Lochte and Gabby Douglas – were financially broke after spending huge sums to prepare their kids to become sporting heroes.

Joseph’s mother, May, despite being overjoyed over her son’s accomplishments, could not help but relate the arduous seven years it took for her and her husband to finance their son’s ambitions, which is estimated at US$1 million (S$1.35 million).

What about the payoff? Working towards your child’s Olympic dream, just like any investment, comes with risks.  Before thinking of winning a gold, the first step is to get him or her into the games.

How much was the investment?

Below is a breakdown of the cost of raising a gold-medal Olympic swimmer and we will use Joseph Schooling as an example:

Estimated cost of raising an Olympic gold medallist swimmer

*Joseph is a scholarship recipient at the University of Texas, which supports elite athletes with up to SG$90,000 in median annual stipend to train and compete at the highest level. How much is he exactly receiving can’t be ascertained at writing time.  So the calculation above is based on a non-scholarship rate.

Additional costs

Much of the cost to participate in major sporting events would be borne by the participant. For Joseph, it means taking part in the SEA Games, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and the Olympics. How much did he personally fork out for these are unavailable.

One portal estimated the cost for travel, food and equipment would set him back S$824,496.64. Though this is not official, we can certainly add this into the total investment cost.

Is it worth it financially?

What we know is Joseph receives a purse worth S$1,000,000. But that does not make him an instant millionaire. He also received S$35,000 for winning four gold medals in the 2015 SEA Games; S$20,000 for a  silver at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games; and S$350,000 for a gold, silver and bronze medal at the 2014 Asian Games in Icheon.

The Singapore National Olympic Council says:

“All awards are presented to the winning athlete, not the National Sports Association but it is mandatory for all athletes to plough back a certain percentage of the Multi-million Dollar Award Programme to their National Sports Association for future training and development. All awards are taxable”

Taxable prize money

So with all the information above, let’s see how much is the estimated investment total.

Estimated investment total

Even by winning all those competitions, Joseph Schooling’s prize money only makes up about 64% of the total investment cost. However, at only 21 years old, Schooling has many more years ahead of him to participate in more competitions and win more medals, which translates to more prize money!

The bottom-line

It’s certainly expensive to nurture someone for the Olympics or just about major sporting tournament.

The Schoolings admitted that funding their son’s entire career was an exhausting experience. Some, like the US athletes, have been pushed on the edge of financial instability.

From the calculation above, it is obvious that even Joseph’s total prize money – including those garnered from other major sporting events – was not enough to offset the amount of money his parents invested into his swimming career.

While that gold medal is tantalising, it is just very clear that pursuing is going to require a lot of sacrifice and pursuing this may not yield any returns at all. However, not everything is measured in dollars and cents. The pride of representing your country on an international platform such as the Olympic, and winning a gold medal is priceless.

It’s undeniable. To be a gold medallist, it doesn’t just take blood, sweat and determination, it also takes a huge sum of money!

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