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Athletics: Ultimate Championship unveil record eight-figure prize pot for ‘best of the best’

World Athletics is set to distribute the biggest prize pot in the sport’s history, 10 million US dollars (£7.8m), at its new ‘Ultimate Championship’ launching in September 2026.

The governing body on Monday shared details about what is set to be a biennial event aimed at attracting television audiences and younger fans.

Budapest will host the inaugural Ultimate Championship across three evenings from September 11-13 at its National Athletics Centre and will pit world, Olympic and Diamond League winners against the year’s top-performing athletes to determine the “best of the best”.

The competition will then alternate with world championships to provide a showcase athletics event every calendar year.

Nearly 400 athletes representing about 70 countries are expected to participate, including 8-16 of the world’s best per discipline, with selections based primarily on world rankings.

Winners will receive 150,000 US dollars each (£118,000), while all athletes competing at the championship will, said a World Athletics statement, be “financially rewarded” for their participation.

World Athletics president Lord Coe said: “With only the best of the best on show and cutting straight to semi-finals and finals, we will create an immediate pressure to perform for athletes aiming to claim the title of the ultimate champion.

“Featuring athletics’ biggest stars, it will be a must-watch global sports event and means track and field will host a major global championship in every single year, ensuring for the first time that athletics will enjoy a moment of maximum audience reach on an annual basis.”

World Athletics said athletes will also “benefit from greater promotional rights, allowing them to commercially activate and enhance their personal profiles.”

Consultation with stakeholders, including athletes, broadcasters, shoe companies and member federations, will take place over the summer with a full launch anticipated in the autumn.

The unprecedented prize pot follows World Athletics’ April announcement that it would become the first international federation to award prize money at the Olympics, with gold medallists at this summer’s Games in Paris each receiving 50,000 US dollars (£39,000).

The prize money programme will expand for the Los Angeles 2028 Olympics, where silver and bronze medallists will also receive a to be determined amount.

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