China's Sun Yang, the first Chinese male swimmer to win an Olympic gold in the pool with victory in world-record time over 1500m freestyle, is set to get $18 million in endorsement funds, according to news reports that say he must hand two thirds of the fee over to his federation and fellow Olympic team members.
Coca-Cola makes up the bulk of the money, $18m for Sun the figure being banded about today. Sun's contract with the Chinese Swimming Federation requires him to hand a third of his earnings to the rest of the Olympic swimming team, meaning that each member of the squad would get about $150,000 if the money is shared evenly. Sun then has to give the federation $6m of his earnings.
Those are huge incentives for China to get ever faster and bigger in the sport on the way to Rio 2016.
According to Xinhua, Sun's training in Australia has cost the Chinese government $1.57 million. If some of that went to Denis Cotterrell, the Australian coach is rumoured to have been paid a quarter of a million dollar bonus for Sun's success. Cotterell, mentor to Grant Hackett, is often cited in Australia as the very image of an under-paid coach fighting to make his way. No longer, though the success this time belongs to China.
"What the Chinese offered me for a month, I could live on for a year," Cotterell is reported to have said.
When questions were asked about Chinese performances in the pool at the London 2012 Games, Cotterell said he was "100% convinced" that all those who had trained with him, including Ye Shiwen, the 16-year-old schoolgirl who swam the last 100m of the 400m medley faster than Ryan Lochte, the men's champion, had not cheated. Chinese swimmers spend months as a time in Australia but spend long periods of time in China with home coaches and programmes.
Sun's pay deal, meanwhile, is the biggest ever for a Chinese Olympic athlete.