Photo of Joseph Schooling with his gold medal(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Schooling would probably get $650k out from the $1 million prize money for his Olympic gold

Joseph Isaac Schooling, Singapore’s sporting hero who won Singapore’s first ever Olympic gold medal will probably take back about half of his cash prize after deduction of mandatory contribution and taxes.

The Multi-million Dollar Award Programme (MAP) which was introduced in 1990s, serves as an incentive scheme to reward medal winners in the South East Asian (SEA), Commonwealth, Asian and Olympic Games. Under the MAP, one is awarded a prize money of $1 million dollars for winning a gold medal at the Olympics.

While Schooling gets to keep his $1 million prize money, he would not be keeping all of it to himself.

The website of the Singapore National Olympic Council states. “All awards are presented to the winning athlete, not the National Sports Association but it is mandatory for all athletes to plough back a certain percentage of the MAP awards to their National Sports Association for future training and development. All awards are taxable.”

Therefore, Schooling is required to give 20% of his prize money or $200,000 to his Sports Association, which is the Singapore Swimming Association, for future training and development.

He will also be taxed for the remaining $800,000. According to the tax calculator made available by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, Schooling will have to pay $150,150 for his income in 2016.

This means that Schooling will only keep $649,850 of the prize money.

A Straits Times article published in 2014 mentioned how much the Schooling family forked out to have Schooling where he is today. The article by ST reporters, Jonathan Wong and Chua Siang Yee, wrote:

“In 2008, when the Singapore Swimming Association shut down its Centre of Excellence (COE), Colin was convinced by ex-COE coach Jack Simon that the US was where Joseph’s Olympic dream lay. The Schoolings, who had to bear his school fees, expenses, transport and accommodation costs, took a leap of faith in 2009 and sent their only child abroad. Colin, a 66-year-old businessman, estimates spending nearly US$1 million (S$1.26 million) on Joseph.”

With the prize money of 650k, it barely offsets the investment that was made by the family.

High rewards, high risks

Of course, the Schooling family would surely have never aimed for the $1 million prize money as a goal to recoup their losses. But this brings out the question of how many athletes and their family are able to put in so much with the only support coming after one has won an award.

Some might argue that the spexScholarship is a tangible form support. However, most if not all are awarded after certain success is achieved. Making the initial stage of commitment by the athletes, a plunge into an unsecured future which many are probably hesitant to take up or to be supported by family members. Even if the family members were to support, but how many have the financial capacity to do so? In the case of national rowing athlete, Saiyidah Aisyah, her mother had even offered to sell her house to support Aisyah’s Olympic dream.

With Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s plan to move a motion in Parliament to congratulate Schooling on his gold, and express support for the rest of Team Singapore competing at the Rio Games. More thoughts should be made on how Singapore can better support its aspiring athletes to compete in their sporting events.

The fact that the Tote Board/Singapore Pools – Singapore’s only company authorised to run gambling in the form of 4D and TOTO – is the main contributor to the MAP is an amusing reflection of the sporting scene. Out of many who spend their life, throwing in money to hope for a win, only that few lucky ones will manage to win a prize and for some only to offset the money that they have threw in since.

In comparison, punters might have it easier than athletes. Statistically speaking, you might be able to throw in one million dollars of bets to win 500k of prize money but there is no guarantee that if you throw in one million dollars, you will be able to win an Olympic gold medal, ever.

While Schooling helped Singapore achieved a dream that some think would never come true but should we still continue to have our athletes play this million dollar (650k after deduction) lottery for Singapore’s hope for more Olympic medals?