After becoming the first-ever gold medalist in men’s swimming for his native China, 400 and 1500 meter champion Sun Yang was leveled with about $18 million in endorsements. According to Yahoo! Sports, though, the bulk of that money will not stay with him.
It is not necessarily because of personal benevolence, however. One-third of the money is due to the Chinese Swimming Federation in exchange for the costs to train him and pay his living expenses since childhood. That includes costs like sending him to train with the great Australian coach Denis Cotterell, which did not come cheap. One-third of the money will also be distributed among his Chinese teammates, per his contract with the federation.
Still, with $6 million of that money left, Yang will emerge from these Olympics as one of the wealthiest swimmers in the world. Among the major endorsers is global juggernaut Coca-Cola, who often puts huge sponsorships on swimmers in Asia. Most recently, that has included Japanese breaststroke superstar Kosuke Kitajima, who for a long time has been the continent’s biggest swimming hero.
The other two major endorsement deals were from shoe-company 361 degrees (maybe the second swimmer after Michael Phelps to endorse shoes) and dairy company Yili.
On the surface, the number seems exorbitant. However, the $6 million to the federation is probably justifiable; if their claims of $1.5 million spent on Yang’s training are accurate, they may still lose money on the average swimmer, even with huge payoffs like these. We couldn’t find any information on if he would be further taxed on the $6 million leftover; if he’s not, though, 2/3 is not significantly higher than what an American athlete might be taxed on the same money.