Firms urged to do more for athletes

When it comes to rewarding athletes with disabilities who perform on the world stage, there is definitely room for more to be done and given.

But supporting athletes - both able-bodied and disabled - is a role that must be played not just by the Government and relevant authorities, but also the private sector.

Said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu yesterday: "The awards, the rewards and endorsements - that's where I think corporate Singapore really has a great role to play.

"I encourage all to step up to discuss (this) with the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) and Singapore National Paralympic Council (SNPC) to see how we can support athletes in a most holistic way."

The recent exploits of Team Singapore's Paralympians in Rio de Janeiro, where swimmers Yip Pin Xiu and Theresa Goh gave the country a best-ever performance of two golds and a bronze, have renewed calls from the public for equal prize money for medallists.

Currently, under the SNPC Athlete's Achievement Award Programme, a Paralympic gold yields a $200,000 award, while a bronze medal is rewarded with $50,000.

The SNOC's Multi-Million Dollar Award Programme awards $1 million for an Olympic gold and $250,000 for a bronze. Both programmes are funded by the Tote Board and Singapore Pools.

"(For opportunities and funding) to be equal for the able-bodied and para-athletes, we need the corporate side to also step up and also send that message," added Minister Fu.

In terms of offering support for their training needs, Sport Singapore chief executive officer Lim Teck Yin said it is given evenly to able-bodied athletes and para-athletes under the high performance sports system, according to each athlete's competitiveness level.

Using triple Paralympic champion Yip as an example, he said that she comes under the top tier of support and receives a stipend comparable to what an able-bodied athlete who competes at a similar level would get.

"When you look at the support to physically fund you for (your) training environment, we've applied (it) consistently for para- and able-bodied athletes," he explained.

"On the subject of rewards, I think there's a lot more space for not just the Government to play, but other people too.

"Obviously, corporates will take their own market decisions as to which gives them the mileage they seek. But we would encourage both the corporate and 'people sector' to come forward and recognise our athletes."

May Chen

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 01, 2016, with the headline 'Firms urged to do more for athletes'. Print Edition | Subscribe