Olympic athletes work as hard as any sporting champion for their success, possibly harder. More of their training is likely to be done alone, grinding out their schedule with only a clock for company and sometimes a coach.

Their regular competitions attract little attention, and therefore little personal sponsorship, and sometimes the first we hear of their names is when they are in contention for a medal at an Olympic or Commonwealth Games.

Then, even if they win gold, they need to be content with the nation's adulation and a performance bonus from our public sports funding agency. The rewards that corporate brand contracts bring to winners in some other sports are hard for Olympians to come by.

Might this change?


Today we report the experiences of several of those who brought home gold medals from London a few months ago. Some, such as kayaker Lisa Carrington, BMX silver medallist Sarah Walker and paralympian Sophie Pascoe are capitalising well on their success.

They are the new faces of Beef+Lamb advertisements, displacing Sarah Ulmer and the Evers-Swindell twins, which underlines how fleeting the post-Olympic opportunity can be.

Yet Ulmer and the twins remain recognisable personalities who probably still could earn a great deal by lending their names to products or good causes, if they wanted. One of the glories of Olympic sport is the amateur spirit that survives in some of its best exponents.

Many of them seek no more money than the considerable amounts it takes to devote so much of their time to training, travelling and competing to stay at the top. Win or lose, as soon as they finish one Olympics they start thinking of the next - and High Performance Sport NZ offers them an incentive to do another four years.

It is clear from our report today that success in this country's colours cannot set them up for life. Sooner or later they will need another career. Many of them sensibly combine training at the North Shore's Millennium Institute with courses at Massey University's Albany campus.

This year's winners are still revelling in attention. Two of them mentioned having their photo taken with John Key. The more confident public speakers have their diaries full of invitations and one, rower Eric Murray, is about to step into a boxing ring in the "Fight for Life".

But they deserve serious money. They have earned it.