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Sport: Gable Steveson can add $250,000 to US wrestlers' prize haul with a gold medal

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U.S. wrestler Gable Steveson will participate in the men's freestyle 125kg final Friday at the Tokyo Olympics, where he will compete with pride and honor in representing his country.

He'll be competing for 250,000 other reasons, too.

Steveson, also a wrestler for the University of Minnesota, stands to cash in big with a gold medal, thanks to award programs in place that pay out stipends to athletes who make it to the podium.

a man wearing a blue shirt: Wrestler Gable Dan Steveson (USA) is one win away from a gold medal. © Mandi Wright, USA TODAY Sports Wrestler Gable Dan Steveson (USA) is one win away from a gold medal.

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MONEY FOR MEDALS: Olympic glory can also be very lucrative for athletes from these countries

Fellow American wrestlers David Taylor (86kg freestyle men's) and Tamyra Mensah-Stock (68kg freestyle women's) already earned the $250,000 top prize for American wrestlers when they each won a gold medal in their respective events. Three other freestyle wrestlers have also won medals.

"I've won a lot of medals in my career," Taylor said following the medal ceremony. "This one feels a little bit heavier."

It starts with the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC). Through its program Operation Gold, any U.S. athlete who wins a medal in any sport will also receive a financial reward: $37,500 for gold, $22,500 for silver, $15,000 for bronze.

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But that's just the beginning. 

Several of the national governing bodies of the sports have additional incentive reward programs, based on performance. But since the national governing bodies are organized as private, non-profit organizations, they are not required to publicly disclose the monetary amounts of the awards.

The governing body of wrestling, however, USA Wrestling, has details about its reward program called the Living The Dream Medal Fund on its official website.

Under the program, any wrestler who gets a gold medal will cash in $250,000. A silver nets $50,000 and a bronze $25,000. 

USA Wrestling spokesman Gary Abbott confirmed to USA TODAY Sports' Steve Berkowitz that USA Wrestling had the Living The Dream Medal Fund in place for the Tokyo games.

According to the organization, the fund "will incorporate existing bonuses from USA wrestling and funds as made available by the USOPC."

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So when Steveson faces Geno Petriashvili, the 2016 bronze medalist and three-time world champion (2017-19) of Georgia in the final on Friday, he could take home the quarter of a million dollars. 

By defeating Mongolia’s Lkhagvagerel Munkhtur 5-0 in the men’s 125kg semifinals Thursday, Steveson secured an award of at least $50,000, as a defeat in the final against Petriashvili earns him the silver medal.

Steveson is eligible to keep the prize money and return to wrestle for the Gophers.

And he has already started to earn money thanks to the revised rules about name, image and likeness rights and signed marketing deals that will pay him to be a brand ambassador. Steveson has 250,000 followers on Instagram and 32,900 on Twitter.

He was the national champion last season as a junior and also shared the Dan Hodge Trophy for the best college wrestler in the country last year with Iowa's Spencer Lee.

If Steveson wins gold, it will mark the second consecutive Olympics in which a college wrestler will have earned the $250,000 prize, after former Ohio State wrestler Kyle Snyder won the 97kg freestyle men's event at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

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As of Thursday, 22 Olympians with remaining NCAA eligibility have earned a combined total of $712,500 through the USOPC and not counting the awards from the national governing bodies. Gymnast Suni Lee and swimmer Bobby Finke lead that pack with $75,000 each.

Contributing: Chris Bumbaca and Steve Berkowitz

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Gable Steveson can add $250,000 to US wrestlers' prize haul with a gold medal

Set to return in New York City Marathon, Molly Seidel relives her 'pinnacle' Olympics experience .
Prior to Tokyo, Seidel went through a year and a half of what she called the best training in her life. The results showed with a 2:27:26 race and a podium appearance inside Olympic Stadium. "Straight up, I was about to start crying," Seidel said. "That was pretty much what you dream of. That was the pinnacle of what an Olympics experience could be. "We thought it was going to be some small thing on the front or back end and not actually during the ceremony. So when they were like 'you're going in the middle of it,' that was pretty cool.

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