Sports News

Phelps $1 million jackpot too likely to insure

BEIJING (Reuters) - Insurance companies know a risk when they see one and the possibility of Michael Phelps winning seven gold medals and claiming a $1 million jackpot at the Beijing Olympics is just too great for them.

Four years ago, before the Athens Games, sponsor Speedo offered the U.S. swimmer the seven figure sum if he equaled compatriot Mark Spitz’s 1972 record of seven golds at a single Games.

To cover themselves, they insured the payout.

Phelps came close, seizing six golds and two bronzes, before winning seven golds at last year’s world championships in Melbourne.

The offer of an instant million still stands at the Beijing Olympics but this time the swimwear maker have no insurance cover in place.

“In 2004 we offered Michael a special bonus which we dubbed seven figures for seven golds,” Speedo vice-president for sports marketing Craig Brommers told Reuters on Thursday.

“In American culture, money talks and we wanted to make a big marketing statement.

“In 2004 we were able to insure the $1 million, which is nothing surprising in the sports business where lots of contracts have things that are insured,” he continued.

“However since 2007, when Michael won seven golds, no insurance company will insure it. And the premium you would have to pay was almost the full $1 million so we will gladly write that check if he hits seven golds this time.”

There will be no extra bonus if Phelps goes one better and grabs eight.

The swimmer, who could win more gold medals than any previous Olympic athlete and whose image has been splashed over magazine covers across America, said he was not thinking about the money.

“It’s you guys who are the ones that are bringing it all up,” he said. “I don’t even think about that. It’s not about making money here and there, it’s doing what you love to do.”

Editing by Steve Ginsburg