Figure skating is one of the most popular sports at the Winter Olympic Games. Because of the appeal of the sport, these athletes can potentially earn more than a speed skater or cross-country skier, for example. Because it costs a lot to compete as a figure skater, only a small number of skaters make enough to even begin to pay off the money they’ve poured into the sport for coaching, ice time, costumes and more.
While the world's richest figure skaters might amass multi-million dollar personal fortunes, your typical "Disney on Ice" skater will pull around $500 to $800 a week during show season, or $20,000 per year.
Ice skaters who train for the Olympics skate several times a day and often work side jobs in order to earn the money it takes to compete in the sport. Some are lucky enough to get a commercial sponsorship to supplement their training costs. Other options for professional skaters include performing in an ice show, such as the popular "Disney on Ice," or becoming a coach or a sports commentator, like Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir.
Most professional skaters start as children and practice multiple times a day for many years in order to make it to the Olympics or into a professional skating career. In addition to skating two to three times a day for five to seven days each week, figure skaters also need to train off the ice, such as strength training and dance, as well as practicing jumps.
Salary and Winnings
Salaries for professional skaters vary a great deal, depending on the show in which they are performing or if they are working as sports commentators or skating coaches. Figure skaters, for example, can earn $2,000 to $45,000 in prize money for international competitions at the senior level, depending on the competition and where they place. Skaters who tour with a show like "Disney on Ice" or on cruise ships can expect to earn around $500 to $800 per week, but they only get paid for the weeks when they're actually rehearsing and performing. This comes to around $20,000 per year.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the median wage for athletes and sports competitors at $51,370 in 2017. That means half earn more and half earn less. Many pro skaters end up coaching to supplement their income, which could take them closer to this wage.
Sponsorships and Deals
Some athletes with high profiles are able to score commercial sponsorships leading up to their Olympic competitions to help offset expenses, especially if they’re in contention for gold. For example, when she was 11, Elise Freezer was featured ice skating in a Sun Trust commercial. Sponsorship deals can top up a skater's prize money considerably. For those who go on to other successful careers in sports, such as coaching or commentating, the earnings can be quite a bit higher. Tara Lipinski, for example, has a current net worth of $6 million and Johnny Weir's net worth is $4 million.
Ice skating is a tough industry. It's estimated that less than 5 percent of Olympic athletes overall can achieve the sort of success that will let them support themselves through prize money and sponsorships and like most sports, the career is short lived. Most athletes do it for the love of the sport and work hard to secure their own sources of funding through part-time work, family funds, crowdfunding and community support.