Minister for Culture, Community, and Youth Grace Fu reiterated in Parliament on Monday (10 October) that the Government’s focus was on providing a sustained, structured and comprehensive support system for all Team Singapore athletes, instead of diverting resources to fund post-competition award schemes for national athletes.
The minister was responding to questions raised by Members of Parliament about whether is there any consideration by the Ministry of Culture, Community, and Youth (MCCY) to do more to recongnise the achievements of Paralympians.
- Mr Alex Yam Ziming, MP for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC asked about the current value of awards for Paralympic medallists under the Singapore National Paralympic Council Athlete Achievement Awards scheme, whether more can be done to recognise the efforts of our Paralympians, and whether more can be done to raise public awareness of the inspiring stories of our athletes who go through much more challenges than able-bodied athletes.
- Ms Tin Pei Ling, MP for MacPherson SMC asked whether the current rewards for national sports athletes are sufficient, and whether the Government will consider offering equal rewards to Olympic and Paralympic gold medallists.
- Non-Constituency Member of Parliament, Assoc Prof Daniel Goh Pei Siong asked whether Singapore’s Paralympians should be equally rewarded and recognised as our Olympians for their sporting excellence, and whether disabled athletes should be accorded the same level of infrastructural, funding and training support from the Government as able-bodied athletes.
Her response to the questions was, “Instead of focusing on post-podium rewards, we believe our role is to support our athletes upfront in their journey to the podium. We want more of them to get to the podium and bring pride to the nation. We support them through providing scholarships that pay them reasonably well to train full time.”
“Our High Performance Sports system currently supports 1,653 carded athletes across 45 sports, at the cost of $60 million annually. And we have been expanding the scale of our programme at a sustainable pace over the last few years. SportSG (local sports governing body, Sport Singapore) would not be able to help as many aspiring athletes pursue their dreams, if it had to divert resources to fund post-competition award schemes,” she said.
Yip Pin Xiu, who earned two golden medals in Rio 2016 Paralympics is rewarded $400,000, $200,000 for each medal she won, and Theresa Goh, who earned a bronze medal is rewarded $50,000 under the Singapore National Paralympic Council (SNPC) Athlete’s Achievement Award Programme (AAA). The reward for the gold medal remains the same as what she recieved in the last Paralympic after a public outcry raised the amount from $100,000 to $200,000.
While Joseph Schooling who earned one golden medal is rewarded $1 million under the Singapore National Olympic Council’s Multi-Million Dollar Award Programme. Able-bodied athlete who wins bronze will earn $250,000 under the programme.
This means that Paralympic athletes receive only a fifth of that able-bodied athletes would have received for an Olympic gold.
Ms Fu said that other than offering one-off cash prizes, offering a “strong and sustainable eco-system of support” is the key for national athletes, both able-bodied and persons with disabilities.
She stated that she will move a motion to pay tribute to 13-strong team Paralympians athletes’ achievements in Brazil at next month’s sitting. Something which seems delayed given that the motion to recognise Schooling’s gold medal was made immediately once he arrived back in Singapore.
Ms Fu also said that $40 million Sports Excellence scholarships have also provided in monthly stipends of between $1,200 and $8,400 to cover training and coaching costs.
She ended her speech by saying, “We do not discriminate between able-bodied athlete or para-athlete. The amounts of month payments under the spexScholarship scheme for able-bodied athletes and para-athletes are the same. The ‘team behind the team’ of sports medicine and sports science specialists, psychologists and trainers under SportSG support these two groups of athletes the same.”
It is unknown if there were any supplementary questions following Ms Fu’s reply as mainstream media did not report on it although they have the livestream of the parliamentary hearing.
While there might be no difference between the support for the two groups of athletes, but isn’t it still state-sanctioned discrimination between able-bodied athletes and para-athletes to have their rewards amounted differently?
Mr Teo Ser Luck had made it very clear that the state regards the achievements of the para-athletes lesser than of an able-bodied.
He said in 2008 at the Parliament, “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,”
So has the government shifted its stance on this matter?
MCCY should stop hiding behind lame excuses that the TOTE board, as a private company, should decide the amount of the prize money awarded to athletes.
Just look at the board of directors, and then tell the public straight in the face that this is a private company that the government does not have any say in it.