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Paralympic council in talks to raise cash awards for medal-winning para-athletes: Edwin Tong

SINGAPORE — The Singapore National Paralympic Council is working on increasing the amount of the cash awards doled out to para-athletes who compete in major games, said Culture, Community and Youth Minister Edwin Tong.

Paralympic council in talks to raise cash awards for medal-winning para-athletes: Edwin Tong

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong meets with Team Singapore Olympians and Paralympians in Parliament House on Oct 5, 2021.

  • Cabinet minister Edwin Tong said the Singapore National Paralympic Council was working to enhance cash awards for para-athletes in major games
  • This came after calls for Paralympians to receive the same amount of monetary rewards as their Olympic counterparts
  • Separately, Paralympic gold medallist Yip Pin Xiu will be the first recipient of a new President’s Award for Inspiring Achievement
  • The award recognises Singaporeans who have overcome adversity and led inspiring lives

 

SINGAPORE — The Singapore National Paralympic Council is working on increasing the amount of the cash awards doled out to para-athletes who compete in major games, said Culture, Community and Youth Minister Edwin Tong.

His comments in Parliament on Tuesday (Oct 5) came on the heels of a debate on whether Paralympic medallists should get the same amount of monetary rewards as their Olympic counterparts. 

The issue was thrust into the spotlight of late after Paralympic gold medallist Yip Pin Xiu clinched two gold medals at the Tokyo Paralympics Games, which ended last month. 

Mr Tong on Tuesday announced that Yip, the country’s most-awarded Paralympian with six medals under her belt, will be the first to receive a new national award recognising Singaporeans who have overcome adversity and led inspiring lives.

Right now, the cash payout for an athlete who wins a gold medal at the Paralympics is S$200,000 — one-fifth of the S$1 million reward offered to Olympic athletes.

Mr Tong, who was speaking during a motion to congratulate and thank Singapore’s athletes who took part in the recent Olympics and Paralympics, said that the paralympic council has held discussions with a few entities to enhance the cash awards. 

It will give more details about the outcome of the talks in due course.

Right now, the Singapore National Paralympic Council raises and determines the sums offered with its sponsors under a private award scheme.

The Singapore National Olympic Council manages the sums offered to able-bodied athletes separately. 

The disparity between the two different sets of monetary rewards was also the subject of parliamentary questions filed on Tuesday by Members of Parliament (MP) Denise Phua and Alex Yam.

In his reply to the two MPs, Mr Tong said that both councils are non-governmental organisations, and his ministry will support them to engage corporate and other entities to close the gap between the two different sets of awards.

"The disparity in cash awards does not reflect how Government values our para-athletes vis-à-vis our able-bodied athletes," he added, noting that the Government invests about S$70 million annually in the High-Performance Sports (HPS) system for all Team Singapore athletes.

"Our system is one that is merit-based, and support is tailored to the needs of our athletes and the requirements of the sport."

PRESIDENT'S AWARD

Meanwhile, Yip, a swimmer and former Nominated MP, will be the first recipient of the President’s Award for Inspiring Achievement for her accomplishments in and out of the sporting arena. 

The award, to be presented by President Halimah Yacob, will be conferred on recipients who meet stringent qualifying criteria, though it may not be given out every year, said Mr Tong. 

With the Covid-19 crisis casting a pall over the sporting world, Mr Tong also spoke of the challenges that Singapore’s athletes had faced this year as they readied themselves for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The pandemic, he said, “intervened at the cruelest of times” as many athletes were working towards reaching their peak in time for the Games, which were meant to be held last year.

“The pandemic had severely curtailed our athletes’ training plans, decimated opportunities to travel, either for qualification trials or to hone their sporting instincts at other competitions, to keep them primed and match-sharp,” he said.

Still, the athletes bounced back and fought hard to be in tip-top shape for the Games, which eventually went ahead between July and September this year.

Mr Tong also paid homage to the team that supported the country’s athletes behind the scenes.

They included sports scientists, physiotherapists and nutritionists, who ensured that the Olympians and Paralympians performed at their best.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday night, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he was proud of all the Team Singapore Olympians and Paralympians for flying Singapore's flag high at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympic Games.

"To be able to compete among the world’s best is no mean feat. It requires mental strength, hard work and grit, skills and talent. The pandemic made it even more challenging," he wrote.

"Our athletes adapted, persevered, and gave their best for Singapore. They have shown us that dreams are worth striving for."

MPs URGE MORE HELP FOR ATHLETES

On Tuesday, six MPs rose to congratulate the athletes, even as they flagged up areas where more can be done to support the sporting ecosystem.

Noting that a lot of resources need to be invested in athletes to allow them to excel on the world stage, Ms Poh Li San, MP for Sembawang Group Representation Constituency (GRC), said that existing scholarships and grants were inadequate to attract talented athletes to turn professional.

She suggested that the Government look into tying up with big corporations to sponsor an athlete’s training and development in exchange for endorsement and branding opportunities. 

Similarly, Potong Pasir MP Sitoh Yih Pin called on the Government to work with the private sector to devise more curated programmes that support athletes during and after their sporting careers.

He pointed to the example of multinational professional-services firm Deloitte, which offers internship and employment opportunities for elite athletes who are still competing and who have retired.

In his closing remarks on the motion, Mr Tong said that the Government would take into account the MPs’ various suggestions.

“Even as we celebrate (the athletes’) successes today, I thank (the MPs) for their vision and suggestions in looking ahead on what else we can do,” he said.

Several MPs also touched on the wave of criticism against national swimmer Joseph Schooling after he failed to defend his men’s 100m butterfly title at this year’s Olympics.

Ms Poh as well as Associate Professor Jamus Lim, an MP from the opposition Workers’ Party, called on Singaporeans to support the country’s athletes whether they win or lose.

Assoc Prof Lim, who is from Sengkang GRC, said: “Our nation’s sporting culture will only be elevated when we do not view their accomplishments as transactional… but rather as unconditional.” 

Related topics

para-athletes Paralympics Sports Yip Pin Xiu edwin tong Joseph Schooling

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