SINGAPORE - Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu reiterated in Parliament on Monday (Oct 10) that instead of diverting resources to fund post-competition award schemes for national athletes, the Government's focus was on providing a sustained, structured and comprehensive support system for all Team Singapore athletes.
The recent victories by the Republic's para-athletes at last month's Paralympic Games 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, saw renewed calls from the public for equal prize money for medallists.
MPs Alex Yam (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC), Tin Pei Ling (MacPherson) and Non-Constituency MP Daniel Goh asked questions on this topic and wanted to know more about the level and type of support given to local para-athletes.
In response, Ms Fu said: "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."
Currently, under the Singapore National Paralympic Council (SNPC) Athlete's Achievement Award Programme (AAA), a Paralympic gold yields a $200,000 award, while a bronze medal is rewarded with $50,000. Yip, who won two golds in Rio, will receive $400,000.
Swimmer Joseph Schooling, who won Singapore's first Olympic gold in August, will receive $1 million under the Singapore National Olympic Council's Multi-Million Dollar Award Programme, which also pays out $250,000 for a bronze. Both the AAA and MAP Award are funded by the Tote Board and Singapore Pools.
Any changes in the monetary rewards are done though these stakeholders and Ms Fu encouraged the SNOC and SNPC "to review the schemes with their sponsors, and for more corporations to step forward to support SNOC and SNPC on the awards".
But aside from these one-off cash prizes, Ms Fu stressed that providing a "strong and sustainable eco-system of support" was key for national athletes, both able-bodied and persons with disabilities.
This includes sharing their inspiring stories with the public and creating good career opportunities for all athletes when they retire from their sporting career.
Ms Fu had previously invited Singapore's 13-strong team of Paralympians to Parliament at next month's sitting, when she will move a motion to pay tribute to their achievements in Brazil.
There is also the $40 million Sports Excellence scholarships, which provide monthly stipends of between $1,200 and $8,400 to cover training and coaching costs, Ms Fu added.
"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," she said.