By Ghui –
Singapore has long been trying to produce world classed athletes. 2012 has finally seen some results. Feng Tianwei bagged an individual bronze medal in the Olympics and Laurentia Tan has become the first Singaporean to be a double medalist at an international sporting event two consecutive times.
Yet both these achievements have been somewhat bittersweet. Feng’s victory was immediately dismissed as that of a foreigner while there has been controversy with regards to the payout that Tan stands to receive. For her bronze medal, Feng will receive SGD250,000. This is compared with Tan who will only receive SGD150,000 for both her medals.
This disparity is a travesty not lest because both athletes would have trained equally hard and endured the same amount of pressure. Both athletes would also have faced equivalently stiff competition from their peers all over the world.
In fact, Laurentia’s achievements are arguably way more admirable than those of Feng given that she had to overcome the twin hurdles of riding on a borrowed horse and competing with athletes who could hear the music at the dressage event. Believe it or not Laurentia entered the event on the basis of her cerebral palsy and not her profound deafness because, remarkably, there is no category for deaf athletes! Laurentia was therefore competing with people who had the added advantage of being able to hear the music for dressage as it came on while she had to rely on hand signals from a third party!
What then justifies the difference in payouts?
Having had the privilege to watch a few events at both the Olympic and Paralympic games, I see no difference between the sporting prowess of Olympians or Paralympians. Both are outstanding athletes in their own right and both have taken part in international sporting events. In fact, in some of the sporting events, the supporters for the Paralympic Games outnumbered those at the Olympic Games! When Oscar Pistorius appeared on track, the crowds roared as loudly for him as they did for Usain Bolt!
In London, both Paralympians and Olympians alike have been snapped up for various advertorial endorsements and many spectators who were interviewed have paid glowing tribute to the Paralympians who have truly inspired a generation.
Reflecting on the Games, Lord Coe said: "We set a goal to create awareness; I really think we have done that in helping converting some of those extraordinary talents into household names. I really genuinely think we have had a seismic effect in shifting public attitudes. I don't think people will ever see sport the same way again, I don't think they will ever see disability in the same way again. One of the most powerful observations was made to me, by one of our volunteers, who talked about having lifted some of the clouds of limitation." Lord Coe's comments come as new research shows eight in ten British adults say that Paralympics 2012 has had a positive impact on the way disabled people are viewed by the public and according to an Ipsos MORI poll, three in four Britons say the Paralympics have had a positive effect on the mood of the British public.
This same powerful impact should also apply to Singapore. The fact that Laurentia Tan’s medal haul outweigh Feng’s is testament to the fact that that the disabled are in fact as enabled as any able bodied person to achieve the highest levels of sporting excellence and do their country proud.
If Singapore is truly committed to creative an inclusive society where everyone is able to be a part of Singapore’s growth, then this disparity must come to an end.