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Does Olympic gold light a path to riches? Not for everyone.

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Ms. Jones has had more success with corporate sponsors than Ms. Harper, who was a gold medalist in Beijing. That contrast served as the backdrop when Jones found herself this week in a negative spotlight for the financial side of her career. A New York Times article painted Jones as an athlete whose "sad and cynical marketing campaign" has made her more visible than teammates who are better performers on the track. 

Jones, who crashed over a hurdle and out of gold contention in 2008, said she had been "ripped to shreds" by the criticism, which she called unfair. In the end, she proved to be a contender in the 100-meter hurdles, finishing fourth and just a tenth of a second out of a bronze medal. Harper again medaled – silver – while Australian Sally Pearson won gold and US teammates Kellie Wells got the bronze.

The big story here is not whether Jones deserves to have more sponsors than Harper. It's the more basic point: Like Harper, most Olympic athletes aren't rolling in money. The corporate deals that do come their way (Harper is backed by Nike) enable their athletic quest but not a cushy lifestyle.

This reality came into view early in the London Games, when many athletes used the social network Twitter to publicize their protest against an International Olympic Committee mandate known as rule 40. The rule says athletes can't advertise for their sponsors during the two weeks in London, unless the company is an official sponsor of the Olympics.

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