USOC Increases ‘Operation Gold’ Payouts By 25% Beginning in 2017

The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) has ramped up its cash payouts associated with the Operation Gold program for the 2017-2020 quadrennial period.

The program gives athletes financial incentives for performance at the premier international event for their sport in a given year. Beginning in 2017, the payouts for medals at World Championships, Olympic, and Paralympic Games, and select other designated events once-per-year, will increase by 25%.

New award levels for the Olympics:

  • Gold – $37,500 (Olympic Games), $7,500 (Paralympic Games)
  • Silver – $22,500 (Olympic Games), $5,250 (Paralympic Games)
  • Bronze – $15,000 (Olympic Games), $3,750 (Paralympic Games)

New award levels for non-Olympic years:

  • Gold – $6,250 (1st year), $6,250 (2nd year), $7,500 (3rd year)
  • Silver – $5,000, $5,000, $6,250
  • Bronze – $4,375, $4,375, $5,000
  • 4th – $3,750, $3,750, $4,375
  • 5th – $3,125, $3,125, $3,750
  • 6th – $3,125, $3,125, $3,750
  • 7th – $2,500, $2,500, $2,500*
  • 8th – $2,500, $2,500, $2,500*

* – individual sports only, team sports must finish in the top 6.

2016 was a historic year for Team USA. Their 121 Olympic medals were the most they’ve ever won at a non-boycotted Games, and the 115 Paralympic medals was their most since the 1996 Paralympic Games on home soil in Atlanta.

The recent increases become magnified even further as a result of the United States Congress to eliminate taxing Operation Gold prize money – a bill signed into law by President Barack Obama earlier this year.

While the numbers are an improvement, the rewards still pale in comparison to those received in other countries. In Singapore, for example, swimmer Joseph Schooling, who beat Michael Phelps for a 100 fly gold medal, was rewarded with the equivalent of $753,000. That was the country’s first-ever Olympic gold medal.

Indonesia, who has 7 Olympic gold medals in its history (all in badminton), offers rewards of $383,000 to its Olympic champions.

Many of the individual Olympic sport federations offer bonuses above and beyond what the USOC offers. USA Swimming offers $75,000 for an individual gold medal, $30,000 for silver, and $15,000 for bronze. Relay participants divide the USA Swimming bonus among its participants.

Operation Gold money, and money paid under similar programs in foreign countries, can be accepted by NCAA athletes without impacting their college eligibility.

19 members of the 2016 United States Olympic swim team still have college eligibility remaining. Among the biggest winners among college-eligible swimmers were:

  • Katie Ledecky, of Stanford, who received $355,000 in medal awards that she’ll be able to keep;
  • Ryan Murphy, of Cal, who received $234,375
  • Simone Manuel, of Stanford, who received almost $200,000
  • Lilly King, of Indiana, who received $134,375.

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Sir Swimsalot

Still not enough.


Our pay out for Olympic Gold Medals is embarrassing. Total B.S. Our athletes who win Olympic medals are deserving of $1,000,000 per medal regardless of the color. Olympic finalists who do not medal also are deserving of $250,000 regardless of their place in that final. Our Olympic Coaches should also receive $1,000,000 per position. Even this pay out palls in comparison to many other athletes and coaches in other sports.


“Michael is finally actually retired now, so we can raise the payouts without going bankrupt” – USOC probably


I believe that four years ago, USA Swimming paid amounts for medals in addition to the USA Olympic Committee. I have not seen anything on this for 2016. Does anyone know what happened? Did USA Swimming not pay out like they did in 2012?

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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