Apparently, standing atop the podium in Sochi is even more remarkable than you imagined for Russian Olympic medalists.
Russian athletes who won gold medals at the Sochi Winter Olympics have each been rewarded with a Mercedes GL-Class SUV worth $146,500.
The Olympians were presented with their brand new set of wheels at a ceremony on Thursday, which was also attended by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Interfax reported.
Silver medallists were given the keys to Mercedes ML-Class, worth $99,500, and bronze medalists will take home a Mercedes GLK-Class, worth $59,500.
The Macedonian International News Agency, as cited by both Sports Illustrated and CBS Sports, states that the Olympians didn't just drive off in style but also received a sum of $200,000 for doing their country proud.
Winning an Olympic medal has to be an amazing feeling, especially if done with your countrymen cheering you on. The feeling has to be the kind that lingers for a lifetime, delivering chills with every memory.
If not, you can always drive around in your sweet new Mercedes with your very own pile of cash riding shotgun. Make sure it buckles up, though.
Of course, not all were of age to drive their new toys. As reported, figure skaters Julia Lipnitskaia (15) and Adelina Sotnikova (17) are too young to drive. That issue is remedied thanks to Prime Minister Medvedev.
According to The Macedonian International News Agency, each will get a driver courtesy of a grateful nation.
The Moscow Times report states that in 2012, following the London Summer Olympics, medalists received new Audi cars. The gifts are courtesy of "the Russian Olympians Foundation, a not-for-profit organization set up by a group of businessmen in 2005."
Russia certainly has a great deal to celebrate, delivering an exciting and well-run event while finishing atop the medal count in both the number of medals (33) as well as gold garnered (13).
The United States also awards its athletes with money, although—as pointed out in various reports—success comes with certain tax implications.
The Daily Mail's David Martosko states, "The U.S. Olympic Committee awards $25,000 for each gold medal, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze. But top athletes who are in the top income tax bracket, 39.6 per cent, will have to fork over as much as $9,900 of a gold medal payout."
The Sochi gold medals, which reportedly contain a great deal of silver, are valued at $566.
Martosko shares a statement from Americans for Tax Reform: "Because the U.S. is one of only a handful of developed countries that tax income earned abroad, it is likely America's competitors will not be subject to such a tax."
There is legislation, however, in the works that might change the tax plight of American Olympians in the future.
Fox News reports South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune has presented a bill that boasts bipartisan support "that would let Olympians off the hook with the IRS."
As for the host country's athletes, they made Russian President Vladimir Putin quite proud. The Chicago Tribune quotes the world leader as saying:
You have accomplished the mission assigned to you. The results scored by our national team show that we have left the difficult period in the history of national sports behind us.
Any competition where athletes defend the honor of their nation are important and crucial. But the responsibility that rested on the shoulders of our national team was that of the highest level.
Only time will tell if Putin's promise is as solid as the country's results at these Games. The 2016 Summer Olympics afford the next opportunity for what might be the most physically taxing way to get a new car.
If recent history is any guide, those Russian athletes fortunate enough to win a medal will be well compensated for their time, pain and sacrifice.
And we can only imagine that the debate as to whether our own athletes should be weighed down by taxes on their international success will rage on.
However, we think most would jump at the chance to stand atop a podium and listen to the national anthem—even if it meant Uncle Sam waited for them just offstage.
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