Note: This is DPA’s original letter to the Straits Times. The published piece was edited to focus only on the parity of cash rewards for medal winners.
The Disabled People’s Association (DPA) congratulates Ms Theresa Goh and Ms Yip Pin Xiu for winning both a bronze and 2 gold medals in their respective competitions at the Rio Paralympics 2016. DPA would also like to congratulate their fellow Paralympians who represented Singapore at these competitive games.
The Paralympics is undoubtedly the most successful disability sports event and many champions become positive role models for people across the world. Lego recently launched two mini-figures in the likeness of Ms Goh and Ms Yip to celebrate the duo’s achievements at Rio.
With the recent ‘See the True Me’ campaign advocating for greater inclusion of persons with disabilities, DPA hopes that our society will walk the talk and accord athletes with disabilities with as much support, reward and recognition as their counterparts without disabilities.
After the London Paralympics 2012, DPA wrote a letter on 15 September 2012 “Clear the air on parity for Paralympians” calling for clarity on the disparity in monetary rewards to Paralympians and Olympians. We also held the view then (and that still holds true today) that perhaps the key issue was not just about the rewards and that the main focus should be how Singapore can nurture future word class athletes. We had hoped that the performances of our Paralympians can inspire Singapore to support and produce word class athletes, with or without disabilities, of whom we all can be proud. The operative word here being, “support”.
To be sure, all athletes with and without disabilities deserve more training support. Mr Joseph Schooling rightly deserves all the praise and reward he received after winning a gold medal at the Olympics in Rio. Yet, Ms Goh and Ms Yip are no less deserving and there should be parity in how they are rewarded.
In response to DPA’s letter, the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) replied to DPA and explained the variance in cash rewards is that the prize money comes from different donor-funded schemes and better donor awareness of the Olympics over the Paralympics. The reward for Paralympians is derived from the Athlete’s Achievement Award (AAA), while the reward for Olympians comes from the Multi-Million Dollar Awards Programme (MAP). Although the separate set-ups may explain the variance in the reward amounts it does not explain why things have to remain that way. Indeed, four years on, the reward scheme structure has not changed much. If the prize money for Olympians and Paralympians cannot be matched, then going forward the two funding schemes should be consolidated into one so that private donors fund the reward of all elite athletes.
Such a move would show that as a society, we are doing more than just talking about being an inclusive society and that we are taking real steps towards it.
Disabled People’s Association