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She’s one of the country’s most celebrated athletes, competing at four Olympic Games and winning 56 medals on the world stage, but Emily Seebohm has revealed the surprising amount elite swimmers are actually paid each year.
The 29-year-old, who is currently starring in season eight of I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!, shocked her fellow contestants during Thursday night’s episode when she shared that the highest annual salary she could earn is just $30,000.
The candid conversation arose when campmate and former NRL star Beau Ryan asked her why she attended “random” events, which she said was “to get paid” and earn “money to survive”.
Emily explained that there is a tiering system within Swimming Australia and the top-tiered swimmers only make $30,000 a year.
Beau was clearly stunned by her admission, saying “hang on, time out” and calling for other campmates nearby to listen to what she had to say.
“So, our swimming contracts are done every year, and every year you’ve got to re-try and make the top tier,” she detailed. “30 is our biggest contract, $30,000 for the year.”
Beau, who reportedly earned $200,000 in his biggest contract playing for the West Tigers, said he needed to “let that sink in” because he was so surprised by the low figure.
“You just assume that our Olympic athletes, our national treasures are on huge money,” he said. “You assume they live in nice homes, drive fast cars and they’re on good money.
“That shocked me. I knew they weren’t paid well, but not at that level. That’s unbelievable.”
Emily went on to reveal that winning an Olympic gold medal, for which she has three of, is only worth around $20,000.
She also said that sponsorships are “hard to come by these days” because brands often choose to work with athletes from other sports.
“There’s NRL, which is played weekly, which is way better and they can wear their sponsors whereas we can’t,” she described.
“As swimmers, when we’re on the team, we can't wear a personal sponsor. People don’t want to sponsor us.”
When asked by fellow contestant Maria Thattil about whether Olympians end up taking on “normal jobs on the side” to make more money, Emily said that she can’t have any priorities outside of swimming or she’ll jeopardise her spot on the team.
“You only get a contract every year, so every year, you’ve gotta remake the team,” she clarified.
“So you're only on the top for a year and then if you have an off year and you drop to, like, not making the team or you drop to 16th, your funding immediately drops.”
She continued: “I have to be on the top of my game every time I swim, otherwise I’m not going to make that money. Like, I can’t slack off at all. Ever.”
Emily’s comments come after she opened up to her campmates during Tuesday night’s episode about developing an eating disorder following an awful breakup three and a half years ago.
“Sometimes I’m not the best with being open with people and letting them know that I’m struggling, because I think as an athlete, you never want to seem like a weak person,” she said.
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