Before anyone tells you that Yip Pin Xiu, Singapore’s paralympic swimmer who just won a gold medal at the Rio Paralympic 2016 in the S2 100m backstroke will stand to get $200,000, here to tell you again that it is not.
When Yip won her first gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Paralympics on 15 September, she was scheduled to be given $100,000 under the Singapore National Paralympic Council Athlete Achievement Awards scheme.
However, under intense public criticism over the disparity of prize money compared to the Olympic winners, who happened to be the China-born Singapore Table Tennis team that was given $750,000 for their bronze. and subsequent questions in the parliament, Yip eventually received $200,000 for her efforts.
Similar to the Joseph Schooling who has to share his prize with the Singapore Swimming Association, Yip will have twenty per cent of her prize money will be paid to the Singapore National Paralympic Council for training and development.
This means she would get $160,000 for her gold medal and it is unsure if she has to pay for tax on the prize money (which is very likely to be the case given that her prize money is also from the Tote board).
However, Yip has stated in an earlier interview to say that she doesn’t care about the prize money as an athlete. “Over the years, I’ve always had friends coming up to me and said I should be given more. But I don’t make a hoo-ha about it. Because we don’t do it for the money.”
Questions in parliament about disparity of reward
After few days after Yip was awarded her gold medal in 2008, then-Nominated Member of Parliament, Ms Eunice Elizabeth Olsen asked then-Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Teo Ser Luck over the disparity in the reward system, pointing out that the total prize money of the four medals won by Paralympians are less than one bronze of the Olympic games.
Mr Teo said, “One of the things that we have to look at is that the Olympics competition level is actually quite different. The Olympics competition is a free world competition. Paralympians can join Olympics. Olympians cannot join Paralympics. That is one thing you look at – the level of competition.
Secondly, 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.
Thirdly, I wanted to explain that the cash award given to the Olympians is not Government funded. It is the private sector. It is from the Tote Board. For Olympians, they have that cash award for several years already, and for Paralympians, it is only recently. They have managed to get the cash reward by soliciting or getting the support from the private sector and the Tote Board. So they have started somewhere. It is a good first step compared to previously, when there were not any cash awards as well. I think we will continue to monitor and review, and see what is necessary to give them more support.
Most important to the Paralympians, if you ask them, would always be able to continue training and developing themselves in that sport, as well as being recognised as sportsmen and not just as disabled persons. For their recognition, we should try to do more. We should continue to support them if they want to continue with their sports.
Ms Olsen then asked if the government would consider topping up the cash reward. She said, “After all, one of the Paralympic values is equality. We talk about meritocracy with regard to scholarships, among other aspects of our society. Why does it not apply in terms of equality of recognition for disabled athletes?”
Mr Teo in reply said, “…all this while, the system is that we will get the support from the private sector, eg, Tote Board, and solicit support from the community to support our Olympians and national athletes. We should continue to educate the public that our Paralympians are as important as our Olympians, and that disabled athletes should be treated as sportsmen as well, in order to encourage them to come forward and contribute to a good cause. That we will have to do.”