SINGAPORE — A Malaysian newspaper’s report that the country’s Paralympic athletes will get the same monetary rewards as their Olympic counterparts when they win medals has sparked off calls from Singapore netizens for the authorities to do the same for local para-athletes who win medals at the Rio Paralympics.
The Malay Mail Online (MMO) reported on Sunday (Sept 11) that Malaysia’s Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin had reiterated on his Facebook page that Malaysia’s two Paralympic gold medallists will receive the exact RM1 million (S$330,914) reward offered to their able-bodied counterparts.
Khairy also said his previous decision to raise the reward for Paralympic medals from 30 per cent of that of the Olympics to being on par — RM1 million for a gold medal, RM500,000 for a silver and RM100,000 for a bronze — was inspired by Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli who won a gold and set a new world record of 16.84m in the men’s shot put F20 (intellectual disability) at the Rio Paralympics.
Ziyad’s gold was Malaysia’s second gold at in Rio after sprinter Mohamad Ridzuan Puzi had earlier won the 100m T36 (celebral palsy) event in 12.07sec.
“Our para athletes’ achievements and sacrifices must be honoured the same as other athletes. Not 30 per cent of ‘normal’ athletes,” Khairy wrote in his Facebook post. “I would not know how to feel 30 per cent proud of them. I only feel 100 per cent proud of our para-heroes. They have shown us that yes, they are not ordinary. They are extraordinary.”
In addition to their monetary rewards, Malaysian Olympic and Paralympic medallists also receive a lifetime monthly pension of RM5,000 for a gold medal, RM3,000 for silver, and RM2,000 for bronze.
The MMO report proved to be a hit with TODAY’s readers after it was published on this newspaper’s website and Facebook page on Sunday afternoon. As of 10pm Sunday night, it had garnered more than 5,500 likes and over 800 shares on the TODAY Facebook page.
As expected, there were also calls by netizens for the Singapore authorities to reward national para-swimmer Yip Pin Xiu S$1 million for winning the women’s 100m backstroke S3 final on Saturday — the same amount that Joseph Schooling will receive for winning the men’s 100m butterfly final at last month’s Rio Olympics.
As Facebook user Cha Cha Ein Shah wrote: “Our Paralympians are extraordinary athletes who have to overcome great odds and yet, all they want is to make their home country proud! Their goal is the same of the able-bodied athletes, to fly their home flag high! They deserve the same amount of recognition, if not more!”
Another TODAY reader, Freddie Loke, wrote: “They actually face more challenges than the normal able-bodied athletes. So their rewards should be better not less … Please give Yip Pin Xiu the same S$1 million reward, if we can’t give more …”
This is not the first time that netizens have called for Singapore para-athletes to receive similar monetary rewards as their able-bodied counterparts.
When Yip won the 50m backstroke S3 gold at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, a public outcry erupted after it was learnt that para-athletes receive S$100,000 for a Paralympic gold, S$50,000 for a silver and S$25,000 for a bronze under the Singapore National Paralympic Council’s (SNPC) Athlete’s Achievement Award Programme (AAAP). The AAAP is partly funded by the Tote Board and Singapore Pools.
Yip’s monetary award was subsequently raised to S$200,000. The rewards for silver and bronze were also doubled.
At the 2012 London Games, equestrian rider Laurentia Tan received S$150,000 for winning a silver (S$100,000) and a bronze (S$50,000) in her individual events.
A question over the difference in monetary awards was also raised in Parliament in 2008 by then-Nominated Member of Parliament Eunice Olsen.
In his reply, Teo Ser Luck, who was the Senior Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Community, Youth and Sports (MCYS) and the Mnistry of Transport then, said this was due to the fact that Olympians compete against a larger base of athletes around the world than Paralympians.
“The base of competition within the Olympics is a lot broader and the base of competition for Paralympics is smaller and is segmentised because Paralympics is based on the disabilities which are classified differently. So that is a different scale of competition,” he said.
Teo’s explanation is borne out by the number of competitors in the women’s 100m backstroke at this year’s Rio Olympics and Paralympics. For example, there were 45 swimmers in the event at the Olympics. Swimmers have to swim in the heats, semi-finals, and final. The top 16 swimmers go through to the semis and the top eight qualify for the finals.
At the Paralympics, the event is divided into 10 classes (S2, S6-14).
Yip was one of six competitors in the S2 class. As there were not enough competitors, the event was a straight final.
Meanwhile, it is not known how much Singapore’s para-athletes will be getting for their medal wins at Rio as the SNPC’s website does not indicate the amounts. However, while SNPC officials were not available for comment, TODAY understands that the national body will announce how much each medal will be worth after Team Singapore’s para-athletes return from Rio.
The debate is expected to rage on this week though.
This is because national para-swimmer Theresa Goh is a medal prospect in the 100m breaststroke SB4, while Yip is the gold-medal favourite in Friday’s 50m backstroke S2 after setting a new world and Paralympic record during the first 50m leg of her 100m backstroke S2 final.