Can You Make Money as a Gymnast? (answered!)

It is very tough to make money as a gymnast. If you are fortunate enough to earn the equivalent of a full-time wage you will have done very well. In recent years a handful of very successful gymnasts have made a huge amount of money but this is only a tiny percentage of gymnasts and the vast majority will make very little or even no money at all.

Being a professional gymnast is extremely tough, especially as the financial rewards are usually very low. Let’s dive into how gymnasts can try to make money.

male gymnast

Table of Contents

How can you make money as a gymnast?

This depends on the whereabouts in the world you live in. Generally speaking, Gymnastics is not a sport where athletes can make a lot of money but money can be made through the following ways:

  • Government/state funding
  • Sponsorship
  • Endorsements
  • Scholarships
  • Prize money from competitions
  • Media appearances
  • Social Media such as YouTube
  • Media rights such as books

The only gymnasts that will really be able to make money in any of these ways are the ones at the very highest level. If a gymnast is competing at a lower level their earning potential will be next to zero.

In the US, Gymnastics is considered a mainstream sport, and competitions are regularly televised. This brings in large levels of sponsorship and endorsement opportunities not found in many other countries around the world.

However, the high levels of corporate money in US Gymnastics means that the government doesn’t provide any state funding for elite gymnasts. Even their Olympic gymnasts rely on corporate donors and sponsorship to travel to the Olympics whereas many other countries will cover the costs involved for travel and training.

In some countries, gymnasts with a real chance of podium success will receive a government-backed salary to ensure their gymnasts can concentrate on training and having the best possible chance of success at the highest level. Russia, China, and other countries that place a high value on patriotic success will have a system like this.

The reality for those involved in Gymnastics is that there are very few regular salaries or contracts up for grabs as there would be in other mainstream sports. In fact, many gymnasts around the world will have to pay for their own coaching, equipment, and travel costs just to stay competitive.

How much money can gymnasts make?

From Social Media

Nile Wilson, the British Artistic Gymnast grew his YouTube Channel to a whopping 1.4 million subscribers whilst also training as an elite gymnast. Based on his viewing figures and regular content he could generate around 175,000 – 200,000 views per day on his YouTube channel alone. This would convert into an estimated $1,500 per day through the monetization and ads on his videos. There are a number of factors that affect earnings on ads (location of the viewer, engagement, etc) but it’s safe to say that Nile has created a very successful way of earning money as a gymnast.

Other gymnasts with a huge social media following are:

  • Simone Biles 3.9 Million Instagram followers
  • Whitney Bjerken 1.5 Million YouTube Subscribers
  • Laurie Hernandez 1.4 Million Instagram followers
  • Jordyn Wieber 600,00 Million Instagram followers

From Competition Prize Money

CompetitionMale Gold Prize MoneyFemale Gold Prize Money
Artistic World Championships 2017$5,700$5,700
Rhythmic World Championships 2017n/a$5,700
Trampoline World Championships 2017$5,700$5,700
All Around World Cup, Birmingham (UK) 2019$12,000$12,000
American AT&T Cup 2016$14,500$14,500

All figures are in USD

Prize money for Olympic gymnasts (ranked by country)

Gymnasts that win the ultimate prize – an Olympic medal, are often rewarded by the government as recognition for their success. Whilst the IOC doesn’t hand out prize money themselves, pretty much every country in the world pays their gymnasts per medal won. Different countries have their own varying level of remuneration which we have converted to US dollars for quick comparison and there are some surprising discoveries (all figures are correct at the time of writing).

CountryTraining SalaryGold MedalSilver MedalBronze Medal
Singapore$1,000,000$500,000$250,000
Kazhakstan$250,000$150,000$75,000
Russia$67,000$42,000$29,000
France$55,000$22,000$14,000
China$31,400$23,600$12,500
USA$25,000$15,000$10,000
Germany$22,000$17,000$11,000
Australia$15,700$10,500$7,900
Canada$15,000$11,000$8,000
UK$55,000-$85,000$0$0$0

Interestingly the UK doesn’t pay any bonuses at all for Olympic medal success but government-backed funding for their gymnasts does cover a regular salary leading up to the games.

Surprisingly, some of the highest medal bonuses are found in Kazakhstan, a relatively poor country whilst the USA and Australia pay their gymnasts more modest amounts despite their relative wealth. It should be noted that these bonus payments apply to all athletes that represent their country at the Olympics, not just gymnasts. These medal bonuses are very small for some sportsmen and women compared to what they would normally earn. For example, Tennis and Football (soccer) players can earn millions per year whereas for gymnasts these bonuses represent life-changing sums of money.

Several countries are also known to reward successful athletes with luxury items like cars and even houses if they are able to bring glory home from the Olympics.

Can college gymnasts make money?

Until July 2021 collegiate gymnasts were required to be strictly amateur by the NCAA in America. This meant that elite gymnasts, some of whom had competed in the Olympics were unable to profit directly from their success.

However new laws were passed allowing NCAA gymnasts to make money from their name, image and likeness (NILs) and still be allowed to participate in a college program. These changes are very recent and it will be interesting to see how many gymnasts are now able to make money as a gymnast in the USA.

Who is the highest-paid gymnast?

Simone Biles $2.5 million (2021)

Simone Biles is the most successful US gymnast ever including five all-around world titles and the 2016 Olympic all-around gold medal. As a result, she has become a global icon and has secured endorsement deals with brands such as Nike, United Airlines, and Beats by Dre. Whilst it’s rare for gymnasts to reach this level of fame, Simone Biles has taken what’s possible to another level.

The majority of her income is not directly from competitions (she would have earned around $100,000 for her medals at Rio 2016). Instead, she has used this competitive success to build her brand and net worth.

Because of her ability to make a substantial amount of money from her brand, Simone Biles choose not to go down the NCAA route which at the time would have meant missing out on a lot of commercial opportunities.

Simone Biles

Simone Biles at Rio 2016. Credit Wiki Commons

Final thoughts

For the few gymnasts that are successful at the highest level, exciting financial rewards await them (especially in the US). However, the most well-paid gymnasts earn through endorsements and selling their ‘brand’ as opposed to having a regular salary. If you are an aspiring gymnast you should stay focused on the love of the sport rather than becoming rich!

Sources

Prize Money in Sport – BBC Study https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/40300519

International Olympic Committee (IOC) https://olympics.com/ioc/overview

Haris Dulin Compensation in Elite Gymnastics: SPLITTING THE DIFFERENCE: COMPENSATION and
ECONOMIC EXPLOITATION IN ELITE GYMNASTICS

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