14 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Olympic Athletes

The 2016 Olympics will take place in Rio next month, and we are just now starting to pay attention to athletes who have been training all their lives for their shot at glory in any of dozens of sports. They come from all over the world, live in a village set up just for them, and perform in front of a global audience that could reach a billion people. And many are surprised by the Olympic experience.    


At least, that’s according to a 1995 study of photos and interviews featuring medal winners. Psychologists Victoria Medvec, Scott Madey, and Thomas Gilovich looked at photographs and listened to audio interviews of competitors taken after the 1992 Olympics and found that bronze winners seemed subjectively more pleased than the more sullen silver-medal winners. They theorized that silver medalists were disappointed when comparing themselves to gold medal winners, while bronze athletes were happy to have placed at all.

Does Rummel—who won bronze in 2012—think it holds water? “I was a little disappointed as a first reaction, but then you realize it’s special and allow yourself to celebrate. Now, I’m really proud of it. [But] it depends on the sport. A basketball team in a semifinal match might be happy to get bronze when it’s that or nothing.”


Some countries provide significant perks for bringing home gold medals: Russian athletes can get cars and six-figure cash prizes. The U.S. Olympic Committee has a tiered reward structure, with $10,000 awarded to bronze medalists, $15,000 for silver, and $25,000 for gold. While the medal itself isn’t assigned any monetary value, the cash is considered income. “You do pay taxes on it,” Rummel says.

Read more about what goes on behind the scenes for the Olympic athletes, at mental_floss.

(Image credit: akiwitz)

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