Though we see the moments of victory on TV, we seldom know what is happening after.
The Olympics last only around two weeks but we believe that its results last for a lifetime. Michael Phelps will go down in history for being the most decorated Olympian of all time. Usain Bolt will forever be known as the fastest man alive.
So many of these athletes who made the sport their life will soon stand at a crossroads of where and how to go ahead in life. Years upon years were spent trying to master a single skill set that would set them apart and help them stand atop the world. Now, once that time is at an end, you can ask, “What does it all mean?”
Really, what does it mean to win an olympic medal?
It took Singapore 12 years, after its debut in the Olympics to earn its first medal. Russia has been caught in doping scandals as far back as you can remember. Hitler himself took the games very seriously and considered it essential to German pride. Meanwhile, demonstrations like ‘Black Power’ have reminded us that all is not equal in the world.
Amidst all of this, you have athletes trying to win an Olympic Medal.
They constantly try to prove themselves and when they’ve done that they are welcomed back home as heroes. However, they tend to remain in the public eye only while the games are on. Very few times due people actually try to discover what happens to their heroes.
Do they retire with a huge fortune? Do they get regular jobs? Do they even fit in anywhere anymore?
Rower Elise Sherwell, who retired after the Beijing Olympics, found it difficult to integrate herself back into society as she was used to a fixed regiment and having a constant goal to beat. Also, the quest for an olympic medal doesn’t leave you much time to favourably fill up your CV. So, it isn’t rainbows and butterflies for these athletes as one might imagine.
But what about the prize money that they get?
It is definitely true that olympic medal winners get monetary and other incentives once they return but even here there are a great deal of discrepancies. For example, the United States offers around $25,000 as reward for gold medal winners but this is a taxable income. So, athletes actually get a significantly lesser amount.
On the other hand, you have countries like Singapore and India which are offering significantly larger amounts to their medal winners but don’t have the necessary culture to cultivate such olympians. This disparity is what athletes face on a daily basis, the struggle behind all the pomp and glamour that is the Olympics.
Ofcourse, it isn’t all doom and gloom. In countries like Australia, Germany and the US to certain extent, these champions are taken care of and their hard work and dedication is always remembered. This is exactly why these countries tend to produce more Olympians than others. If the environment is nurturing, then the results will show that.
So yes, an olympic medal does mean a great deal but even more so if you’re from a country that respects that.