Only a handful of track and field athletes appearing at the ongoing International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships in Beijing, China, are earning big bucks.
And Jamaican ace sprinter Usain Bolt is the only track and field athlete who ranks in the top 100 of the world’s highest-paid athletes, according to Forbes’ latest rich list.
The 29-year-old is rated number 73, with total earnings of $21 million (R271 million) over the past year.
Bolt does not make much in prize money but cashes in through endorsements and appearance fees. He charges $250 000 to appear at an event.
One would have expected American champion sprinters such as Allyson Felix (400m) and Justin Gatlin (100 and 200m) to follow Bolt closely, but their earnings pale into insignificance when compared with the figures of world athletics’ poster boy.
Even Bolt’s countryman and national team-mate Asafa Powell is far off the pace, with earnings of $6.5 million annually.
Felix’s net worth is estimated to be around $8.5 million, while Gatlin’s stands at a paltry $1 million.
According to a 2014 survey by American labour union the Track & Field Athletes Association and the USA Track and Field Foundation, more than 50% of the US’s athletes ranked in the world’s top 10 earn less than $15 000 from their sport, and there are wide variations from event to event.
It is only at top IAAF track and field meetings, such as the world championships, where athletes are guaranteed cash prizes and can market themselves in the process.
Each of the champions in the individual events in Beijing will get $60 000 cash, while the relay winners are set to run away with $80 000.
In addition, a $100 000 bonus will be awarded to individuals or relay teams if they set new world records.