What is a gold medal worth?

Are gold medals really made of gold? No, they have not been solid gold since 1912. The gold medals at Rio are only 6% gold and the rest is silver. If you melt it down, the metal is worth about $800.

However, winning a gold medal does bring some prize money for a New Zealander. A gold medal winner gets a grant of $60,000, silver and bronze winners get $55,000 and any athlete who is placed in the first 12 in a competition, gets $30,000.

NZ High Performance Sports Organisation has spent $130 million in the last 4 years on training top athletes so that they can compete, and preferably win medals, at Rio. Rowing received most funding at nearly $20 million. Cycling was next at $17.5 m and yachting got $12.5m. Other sports were also funded but not to the same extent. Funding is also given to Paralympics athletes. There are also scholarships for individual athletes.

Cycling is finished now and the only medal was a silver in the men’s team sprint. However, rowers have won two gold medals and one silver, and yachties have won a gold and a silver so far.


• a grant (n) – a scholarship
• to fund (v), funding (n) – to provide money (v), money (n)
• not to the same extent (idiom) – not as much
• Paralympics – for athletes with a physical disability
• sprint (v and n) – short, fast run or cycle
• yachties (NZ slang) – sailors

Note: pronunciation of ‘yacht’. It rhymes with ‘what’. The spelling is difficult so you need to memorise it.


1. Why do athletes want to compete at the Olympics if they are not likely to win a medal?
2. What skills are needed to be a successful athlete?

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