Cash for Gold? Not for Most Olympians

Lindsey Vonn of the United States reacts at the finish line after winning an Alpine Ski Women's World Cup Super G race in St. Moritz, Switzerland, Jan. 31, 2010.
AP Photo/Giovanni Auletta

It's all over but the closing ceremonies for the winter Olympics in Vancouver. The last event was the hard-fought men's hockey final, in which Canada topped the U.S. in overtime for one last gold medal.

The U.S. winds up with 37 medals, the most ever by any country in the winter games. Some of the stars of these winter Olympics may find they have short shelf-lives when it comes to capitalizing on their achievements, as CBS News correspondent Jeff Glor reports.

Before the Games, Lindsey Vonn was positioned as America's Golden Girl. Now, with a gold actually in hand, marketing experts believe the downhill ski champion could double the $3 million a year she was already making from endorsements.

Special Section: Vancouver Olympics

When it comes to marketing, a memorable back-story helps. Snowboarder Shaun White has a great story, recovering from a congenital heart defect and two open heart surgeries as a child to become the halfpipe king.

Photos: Shaun White

And 32-year-old veteran skier Bode Miller won three medals four years after getting shut out in Torino and weathering accusations of too much partying and not enough practice

"I don't know of one athlete who did more over two weeks to change the public perception," sports marketing expert Jesse Derris said of Miller.

But attention to these once-every-four-years events is still fleeting. The only Winter Olympic athletes who seem assured of long-lasting fame and the money that goes with it are figure skaters, like 1998 gold medalist Tara Lipinski.

"I don't know, it was easy for me," Lipinski said. "I just knew I wanted to go into professional ice skating, and so I just wanted to learn everything I could, since I was a newbie."

On the other end of the spectrum is cross-country skier Caitlin Compton. Her sport doesn't attract high numbers or big endorsements. She splits her time between training and cultivating grass-roots support on her Web site.

"Right now, I'm in that middle ground where I just have to kind of accept the fact that it's not going to be easy and that, you know, I have to live and be creative with how I afford my apartment and what kind of car I drive and the fact that probably most of my net worth is in skis and boots," Compton said.

But, she said, "I've never been interested in making any kind of fortune from my sport."

For athletes, the dream endures - whether it generates gigantic dollars signs or not.