Being an elite athlete is a full-time job — so how do Olympians make money?

Lauren Tuck
News Editor
(Photo: Getty Images/Quinn Lemmers for Yahoo Lifestyle)

For two weeks of the year every four years, athletes competing in the Winter Olympics become celebrities. Moments like Chloe Kim’s halfpipe run, Mikaela Shiffrin’s super fast slalom skiing, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson’s gold medal-winning penalty shot, Jessie Diggins’s cross-country skiing photo finish, and more lead the nightly news, dominate prime time, and trend on social media.

Despite the adoration and attention Olympians receive during this time period, most aren’t making bank like the other famous figures that regularly appear on NBC programming. In fact, elite athletes have to be the best of the best to even qualify for stipends from their respective sports’s organizing body. “There are support systems put in place once you reach a certain level so you can minimize costs and focus on training,” Erin Hamlin explains. “I had a part-time job when I needed to buy a car or for personal expenses.”

Hamlin isn’t alone when it comes to juggling work with working out. From waitressing to Wanderlust, here’s what seven Olympians do to make some dough.

Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, ice hockey player

Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson (Photo: Getty Images/Quinn Lemmers for Yahoo Lifestyle)

The last three years, I’ve worked as a strength coach back home. I worked with the University of North Dakota’s women’s hockey team and in a facility in Grand Forks coaching adults or high school athletes. I was doing that on top of training.

When we moved to Florida this year for residency to be with the national team full-time, I stopped working. Since Sochi, I’d been working full-time and also training, so that’s a lot of balancing. I was trying to rest as much as I could in between.

Sarah Hendrickson, ski jumper

Sarah Hendrickson (Photo: Getty Images/Quinn Lemmers for Yahoo Lifestyle)

I’m not in school right now, but I was taking classes part-time, on-and-off for the past couple years. I was kind of making a dent, but not at the current moment. I was working on my general [courses,] and my dream is to go into some kind of medical work. With all my knee surgeries, I was interested in PT. After I retire, that’s my next path.

Summer Britcher, luger

Summer Britcher (Photo: Getty Images/Quinn Lemmers for Yahoo Lifestyle)

Right now, I don’t have a job. A few years ago, I worked as waitress to save up money, but I had to decide, am I training as well as I could be? Is the stress on my body holding me back? I couldn’t have distractions. I’d be really tired from working. I would get to the restaurant and my coworkers said, “You’re supposed to be an athlete, how are you tired?”

Erin Hamlin, luger

(Photo: Getty Images/Quinn Lemmers for Yahoo Lifestyle)

I have had a plethora of part-time jobs over the years, trying to get to the point in my career where my results would qualify me for a stipend. There are support systems put in place once you reach a certain level so you can minimize costs and focus on training. I had a part- time job when I needed to buy a car or for personal expenses. I picked up a sponsor after Sochi, a local bank where I’m from. So that’s kind of a job but it makes it easier to not have financial pressure.

Emily Sweeney, luger

(Photo: Getty Images/Quinn Lemmers for Yahoo Lifestyle)

I’m in the military. I am part of world class athletes program which is a full army unit based out of Fort Carson in Colorado but they allow us to train, travel, and compete and it partners well with luge. Other than that, which is literally designed to allow us to do this sport, it’s so difficult for women to have jobs at this.

Clare Egan, biathlete

(Photo: Getty Images/Quinn Lemmers for Yahoo Lifestyle)

This is my full-time job. I make about $14,000 a year which is pretty good for a U.S. Olympic athlete. But there’s my stipend that comes from U.S. biathalon, which is from private sponsors. Other countries have government support for national elite athletes and are usually employed through the military or a similar system, and they often go into the military after they’re done with their professional athletic career. Whereas in the U.S. all of our athletes are supported by private sponsors.

Being an athlete at the top of the international field is a full-time job. We train year-round, usually six days a week, usually twice a day, and on the road five months in the winter plus a month or two here and there for training camps, so there’s not really time in the day or year to be doing another job. The whole lifestyle is also part of the job — I’m eating and stretching and filling out my training log between those trainings, I’m resting and eating again, and at night I’m not going out with my friends, I’m going on my training log again and maybe doing some practice shooting and going to bed early. I think that’s pretty typical for an elite athlete.

Faye Guilini, snowboarder

(Photo: Getty Images/Quinn Lemmers for Yahoo Lifestyle)

It’s not super lucrative currently. I do odd jobs. Right now I do event stuff like Wanderlust in Tahoe that big yoga event. I’ll go there for a week, make some good money there and then go home. I worked Sturgis, which is a big motorcycle rally, this year. Events where I can go, it’s pretty dense for about 11 days, but then I can come home with a chunk of change. I’m fortunate enough that all my snowboarding is paid for, my schooling’s paid for, my health insurance, and I do get money snowboarding, but this way I have a cushion. The money I have from snowboarding is usually from a short contract or prize money so this way I have guaranteed income, $1,000 here, $1,000 there, which is more for security. I could probably get away without working but this offers me some peace of mind.

Additional reporting by Laureen Irat, Kerry Justich, Dana Oliver, Rachel Bender, Alexandra Mondalek, Beth Greenfield, Elise Solé, and Abby Haglage.

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