Singapore Paralympic athletes, Yip Pin Xiu and Theresa Goh received cash awards at the Athletes’ Achievement Awards reception held at Suntec Convention and Exhibition Centre on Wednesday (14 December) night for their achievements at the 2016 Rio Paralympics.
Yip, who won Singapore’s first-ever gold medal at an Olympics or Paralympics at Beijing 2008, earned S$400,000 for her two golden medals in the S2 50m backstroke and the 100m backstroke S2 event with a world record of 59:88 in the Paralympics.
While, Theresa took home S$50,000 for her bronze in the women’s SB4 100m breaststroke.
The two were presented the cheques by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), SNPC chairman and SDSC president Kevin Wong, and Fong Yong Kian, chief executive of Tote Board.
The financial rewards were given under the Singapore National Paralympic Council (SNPC) Athlete’s Achievement Award programme (AAA), which is funded by the Tote Board and Singapore Pools. In the program, one gold medal yields S$200,000.
Goh, who had been joining the Paralympics for four times,said that she was very “honoured” and hopes that the SNPC and Singapore Disability Sports Council (SDSC) can build on the increased awareness of disability sports, and raise participation numbers.
Speaking to local medias at the sidelines of the event, she said, "We want to see the growth and more young athletes coming into the big picture, because we cannot do this forever. And not just at the APG (Asean Para Games); there has to be continuity and long-term goals."
"They cannot just come for one Games and then not show up the rest of the time. It has to be a commitment and something they want to do; of course (we are) not forcing anybody to do it, but we want to see growth in our sport," she added.
Yip also said that she hopes para-sports can move to the next level, saying, "We envision it having a bigger base of people, so when we want to pick a few for the elite level, there will be people."
20 per cent of their awards being mandatorily channelled back to the SDSC. Commenting on this, Yip said, "Really, we hope that these funds will go to the training and development and maybe the talent scouting of these people, and we also hope that these people will be committed to what they want to do."
Yip has been re-classified as an S2 swimmer as the muscular dystrophy that afflicts her advanced and progressively weakens her muscles. The International Paralympic Committee classifies S2 as swimmers who mainly rely on their arms for swimming. Their hand, trunk and leg function is limited due to tretraplegia or co-ordination problems, for example.
While, due to congenital spina bifida, Theresa does not have use of her legs. Therefore she had been classified as S5 swimmer. The International Paralympic Committee classifies an S5 as swimmers who suffers short stature and an additional impairment, with the loss of control over one side of their body (hemiplegia) or with paraplegia compete in this sports class.
Sadly, Mr Teo Ser Luck who was the then-Senior Parliamentary Secretary said in response to a question filed in Parliament on 19 September 2008, "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," he added.
In September, Godfrey Robert from The New Paper argues in his article, "Honour Yip, but don't put her in the same league as Schooling" that people should not compare para-swimmer Yip Pin Xiu's achievement with Olympic swimmer Joseph Schooling as they are of different league and ask for equal amount of reward for the para-swimmer with two gold medals in the Rio Paralympics 2016.
This article drew attention of netizens. A former journalist, Claire Leow, commented on her Facebook post in response to Godfrey's article, saying that we cannot measure (or reward) human endeavour by money alone but withholding it sends a wrong message to society too.
"Yes, she competed in a smaller field, in the reporter's eyes. But that doesn't diminish her efforts. Even the reporter admitted her feat was "superhuman". I am glad it was a smaller field — I am glad because each of those six competitors had a disability no one wishes on them. But it is also a bigger field - the six only represented the many others with more severe disabilities that could not possibly have gotten them into competition. They are bedridden, in hospices and hospitals, watching the TV and marvelling at Yip's Herculean efforts. They are being inspired outside of our scrutiny. It is them we need to uphold in any argument of equality," she said.
Malaysia has since awarded its Paralympians RM1 million, the same amount as its Olympians. Malaysia's Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin wrote on his Facebook page, "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," he added.