SNPC in talks with sponsors to boost cash awards for para-athletes: Edwin Tong

Singapore's Yip Pin Xiu celebrates after winning gold in the women's 50m backstroke (S2) final at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
Singapore's Yip Pin Xiu celebrates after winning gold in the women's 50m backstroke (S2) final at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. (PHOTO: Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images) (CHARLY TRIBALLEAU via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — The Singapore National Paralympic Council (SNPC) is holding discussions with private sponsors to boost cash awards for para-athletes who medal at major Games such as the Paralympics.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong, said in Parliament on Tuesday (5 October) that he supports the council's engagement with corporate entities and private funders, with a view to enhancing the Athletes' Achievement Awards (AAA) for the para-athletes.

SNPC will announce the outcome of their efforts in due course, said Tong.

The award scheme has been funded by private sponsors since its inception in 2002. It has been the subject of scrutiny since para-swimmer Yip Pin Xiu won two golds at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, earning a $200,000 reward for each medal.

This is one-fifth of the $1-million payout for an Olympic gold medal under the Major Games Award Programme (MAP) for able-bodied athletes. This gave rise to calls for parity, or at least reducing the disparity, in cash awards.

Tong told the house that the award amounts offered under both schemes are raised and determined by the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) and SNPC respectively, along with their sponsors. Individually, the awards under each scheme are tiered based on the standard, size and field of competition for each major Games.

"The difference in cash quantum does not reflect how the government values our para-athletes vis-a-vis our able-bodied athletes. In our eyes, they are all Team Singapore athletes, and each athlete, abled or disabled, has his or her own intrinsic value, which we value, recognise and appreciate."

New President's Award for Inspiring Achievement, first recipient is Yip Pin Xiu

Tong was speaking amid a parliamentary motion to congratulate Team Singapore Olympians and Paralympians for their achievements at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Singapore sent 23 athletes across 12 sports to the Olympics in July, and 10 para-athletes across six sports to the Paralympics in August. They returned with two gold medals and five national records.

Both golds were won by Yip as she retained her women's 50m and 100m backstroke (S2) titles from the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympics. She now has a career total of six Paralympic medals - five golds and one silver - since she began competing at the Games in 2008.

The 29-year-old also served as a Nominated Member of Parliament from 2018 to 2020, speaking on issues such as sports and inclusion, campus sexual violence and workplace harassment.

Tong also announced that, following Cabinet discussions and with the approval of President Halimah Yacob, the government will create a new President’s Award for Inspiring Achievement to recognise Singaporeans who have overcome personal adversity and led inspiring lives.

The inaugural award will be presented to Yip. The award will be given to Singaporeans with fitting achievements, and may not be given out every year.

Resources to grow base of disability sports

The government will also continue to put in resources to grow the base of disability sports, with the Disability Sport Master Plan encouraging more to take part in sport, lowering the barriers to entry and enhancing facilities to facilitate participation.

For instance, there are eight inclusive ActiveSG gyms and six inclusive swimming complexes in Singapore, all being retrofitted with equipment like inclusive gym machines and pool wheelchairs to make them more accessible. Tong said that Singapore is on track to making every ActiveSG gym an inclusive one by 2026.

"More athletes will benefit from this, and more pathways to success and to elite representation will open up. Opportunities will come across a whole spectrum of participants at different levels, not just at the elite sports level," said Tong.

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