KUALALUMPUR - Malaysia's Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin announced on last Sunday that Malaysian Paralympians Muhamad Ziyad Zolkefli and Abdul Latif Romly will receive an exact amount of RM1 million reward (S$330,500) for their achievements at the ongoing Rio Summer Paralympics.
The duo set new world records in their respective sports with gold medals awarded to them.
Mr Khairy wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday, “Our para-athletes’ achievements and sacrifices must be honored the same as other athletes. Not 30 percent of ‘normal’ athletes.”
“I would not know how to feel 30 percent proud of them. I only feel 100 percent proud of our para heroes. They have shown us that yes, they are not ordinary. They are extraordinary.”
The minister said his previous decision to raise the reward for Paralympic medals to be the same with the Olympics was inspired by Mr Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli, who coincidentally won Malaysia’s second gold medal at the Rio Paralympics and set a world record at the same time.
Mr Khairy remembered in the post how, in his early days as the youth and sports minister, a national athlete named Ziyad Zolkefli had won an international event in Lyon, France.
He was told para-athletes were entitled to 30 percent of the prize offered to their able-bodied counterparts and when he pushed for this to be equalised, was met with resistance.
Mr Khairy said he finally made the decision when local sports authorities could not state if they understood the challenges of becoming an international level sportsmen while having a disability.
“Thank you, Ziyad, for giving me the strength to change the treatment of para-athletes three years ago. Today, Malaysia is one of the only countries in the world that gives the same incentive to ordinary athletes and ‘extraordinary’ ones,” he said.
Malaysia rewards Olympic and Paralympic athletes with RM1,000,000 (S$330,500) for a gold, RM500,000 (S$165,250) for a silver and RM100,000 (S$33,050) for a bronze medal.
In addition, they also receive a lifetime monthly pension of RM5,000 (S$1,652.50) for a gold medal, RM3,000 (S$991,50) for the silver, and RM2,000 (S$661) for the bronze.
DAP parliamentary whip Anthony Loke also has urged the government to offer a special incentive for athletes who set new world records.
“DAP fully supports the Youth and Sports Ministry’s policy of offering equal rewards for Olympic and Paralympic winners. The three Paralympic heroes who won gold for Malaysia, ought to be given RM1 million each,” he said in a statement.
“In addition, I propose that the Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin seek the cabinet’s permission to give a special incentive to athletes who break world records.”
In the Rio Paralympics, which run from Sept 7 until Sept 18, Malaysia has received three gold medals so far, placing it on the 18th out of 67 countries in the medal rankings.
Loke said this is the first time Malaysia has won gold medals at the Paralympics, so in addition to the government’s financial rewards parliament should give them due recognition.
“In view of the three heroes writing history by winning Malaysia’s first Paralympic gold medals, they ought to be given the highest accolades through Parliament in addition to financial rewards from the government.”
“On DAP’s behalf, I propose a motion of congratulations and thanks to all national heroes who have brought renown to their country at the Rio 2016 Olympics and Paralympics, when the Dewan Rakyat session opens on Oct 17,” he said.
Malaysia’s first Paralympic gold ever was set by Mohamad Ridzuan Mohamad Puzi in winning the men’s 100 meters T36 (cerebral palsy) event.
Then Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli reached a gold medal at the men’s shot put F20 (intellectual disability) event. He threw the shot 16.84 meters, further than the previous world record of 16.29 meters at the 2012 London Paralympics.
Abdul Latif also garnered gold in the men’s T20 long jump event, leaping 7.47 meters into the record books by beating the previous record of 7.25 meters set in the 2012 London Paralympics by Spain's Jose Antonio
Latif then made four more attempts and beat his own world record twice with his best distance being 7.6 meters.
Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar also declared her congratulations in the Aidiladha celebration event.
“It is through their effort and sacrifice that Negaraku reverberates through the arena in Rio, unlike certain individuals who made the country ‘famous’ for all the wrong reasons,” she said.
And MCA vice president Chew Mei Fun said the achievements of the Paralympians are an inspiration.
“The achievements of Paralympians receive the same recognition as Olympians as their triumph not only confirms the spiritual challenges of human destiny and difficulties, but also inspires everyone to utilise their potential to the fullest with confidence,” she said.
TOC has earlier reported that Singapore’s paralympic gold medalist Yip Pin Xiu will get $160,000 out of her $200,000 prize money before tax, while Schooling would probably get $650k out from the $1 million prize money for his Olympic gold. Making a 5 times difference in the prize money.
Former Senior Parliamentary Secretary and People's Action Party Member of Parliament, Teo Ser Luck explained the disparity in the reward system for the Olympic and Paralympic athletes in 2008.
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."