U.S. swimming star Katie Ledecky’s performance at the Rio Olympics netted her a total of $355,000 in medal awards that she will be able to keep while remaining eligible to compete for Stanford, USA TODAY Sports has learned.
Three other incoming or current college swimmers also ended up with six-figure amounts: California’s Ryan Murphy ($234,375) and Stanford’s Simone Manuel (nearly $200,000) and Indiana’s Lilly King ($134,375).
The new figures take into account money from swimming’s national governing, which awarded $75,000 for an individual gold medal won in Rio, $30,000 for a silver and $15,000 for a bronze, two people with knowledge of the payment plan told USA TODAY Sports on Friday. For a relay event, the amount awarded for an individual medal was divided among all of the team’s participants, including those who swam in a preliminary. Both people spoke on condition of anonymity because the payouts have not been publicly announced.
PHOTOS: Katie Ledecky
These amounts were in addition to money from the U.S. Olympic Committee’s basic Operation Gold program, which provides cash to all American athletes based on performances at the Olympics or, in non-Olympic years, a world championships or similar competition. For the Rio Games, the USOC’s awards were $25,000 for a gold medal, $15,000 for a silver and $10,000 for a bronze. Participants in relay events each got the full USOC award, not a share.
The amounts being awarded by the USOC and USA Swimming for medals mean Ryan Lochte will forfeit $35,714 as a result of his punishment connected to the gas station incident at the Rio Olympics.
Ledecky won three individual gold medals, a relay gold and a relay silver. Murphy won two individual golds and a relay gold.
Since 2001, NCAA rules have allowed athletes to accept money awarded under the Operation Gold program. In 2015, the NCAA’s Division I schools adopted a rule covering similar payments to non-American athletes from their countries’ national Olympic governing body.
While a basic payout for Americans comes from the USOC, several U.S. sport governing bodies add money to these awards. If the USOC approves, those amounts can be included under the umbrella of Operation Gold.
Wrestler Kyle Snyder, now a junior at Ohio State, won a gold medal in Rio that gave him $250,000 -- $25,000 from the USOC, the remainder from USA Wrestling’s Living The Dream Medal Fund. The fund is maintained as a restricted pool of donor money aimed at keeping wrestlers involved in the sport. Gold-medal-winning shooter Ginny Thrasher, who competes for West Virginia, also received money beyond what the USOC provides.
On Thursday, NCAA president Mark Emmert said the association’s member schools may want to consider changing the rules that permit these payments to college athletes. He made the comments after referencing a roughly $740,000 award that went to Singapore’s Joseph Schooling, a swimmer who is now a junior at Texas. Schooling won the 100-meter butterfly, triggering his gold-medal payment from the Singapore National Olympic Council.
“To be perfectly honest,” Emmert said, “it’s causing everybody to go, ‘Oh, well, that’s not really what we were thinking about.’ So, I don’t know where the members will go on that. I mean, that’s a little different than 15 grand for the silver medal for swimming for the U.S. of A. So, I think that’s going to stimulate a very interesting conversation.”
Overall, 17 Americans who are incoming or current college swimmers won at least one medal in Rio, and they combined for nearly $1.5 million in total award money.