London - It is an unparalleled honour to represent one’s country at the world’s major championships and includes the thousands of athletes who are flying their national flags at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London, which comes to a close tonight.
Most of the athletes don’t get paid by their local athletics federations for competing at championship events, but it’s a different case for those who help themselves to a top-eight finish and walk away with big money in London.
Coaches of the three podium-finishers also get medals as recognition for helping their athletes become the stars they are.
South Africa’s poster boy, Wayde van Niekerk, pocketed more than R1 million in prize money for winning the gold medal in the men’s 400m and the silver medal in the 200m.
The world record-holder received more than R800 000 for his gold medal performance and added more than R400 000 for his silver medal achievement.
There is no prize money for winning an Olympic gold medal, but athletes get rewarded for their performances at the IAAF World Championships.
South Africa’s 100m record-holder, Akani Simbine, might not have done well at the championships, but he pocketed more than R100 000 for his fifth-place finish in the men’s 100m final on day two of the 10-day competition.
Luvo Manyonga, who clinched a gold medal with a leap of 8.34m in the men’s long jump final, said athletics was a career and that most of the athletes were breadwinners in their families.
Manyonga bagged more than R800 000 for his showing in the long jump and said he would invest the money wisely.
Van Niekerk said that paying athletes provided them with motivation and that it also made the championships more competitive.
Ruswahl Samaai and Caster Semenya, the two bronze medallists in the men’s long jump and the women’s 15 000m events, respectively, earned themselves a reward of R269 000 for their podium finishes.
All five medallists shared in the IAAF’s pot of gold for their hard work at the championships.
Van Niekerk said: “They are a good incentive and it’s good to run in a competition that pays – and for which it’s not just about medals.”
Manyonga said he was involved in the sport full time and that it was for the best that athletes were rewarded financially.
“Athletics is a job for me and, when you do a job, you expect to be paid well. It’s important to be paid – this competition pays a lot and that is what makes us athletes happy.”