Singapore's para athletes, who delivered a record 24 golds at last month's Asean Para Games (APG), could soon receive a boost in their quest for more sporting glory.
Yesterday, Singapore National Paralympic Council (SNPC) chairman Dr Teo-Koh Sock Miang said that the possibility of increasing the APG monetary rewards will be on the agenda when the SNPC meets the Tote Board and Singapore Pools in the near future.
The Tote Board is the primary sponsor of the SNPC's Athlete's Achievement Award (AAA) scheme, which gives out monetary rewards for the para athletes' achievements at major Games.
Speaking at the sidelines of the AAA reception held at Suntec Convention and Exhibition Centre yesterday evening, Dr Teo-Koh, who is also president of the Singapore Disability Sports Council, told The Straits Times: "We will discuss and think of a way to be equitable.
TOP EARNERS FOR THE 2015 ASEAN PARA GAMES
• Theresa Goh (swimming)
• Toh Wei Soong (swimming)
• Benson Tan (swimming)
• Syahidah Alim (archery) - one individual, one team gold
• Han Liang Chou (swimming)
The Athletes' Achievement Award of the Singapore National Paralympic Council rewards para athletes for their achievements at major Games.
EFFORT IS BEING RECOGNISED
When people want to raise the amount, it means that they are realising how much hard work and effort we put in.
THERESA GOH , Singapore para swimmer, on the issue of increasing monetary rewards for para athletes
"One way is to look at what other countries are doing and how they recognise their athletes.
"The APG would be our first attempt to try and see whether we can have equal recognition."
Currently, each individual gold at the APG comes with a $2,000 cash award, up to the third gold, while the reward for each team gold is $3,000.
In contrast, Singapore's gold medallists at the SEA Games in June were awarded $10,000 for their first individual gold, and $5,000 for their second and third golds under the Multi-Million Dollar Award Programme (MAP).
SEA Games golds in team events come with a $15,000 prize money, while golds in team sports are further rewarded with $30,000.
The meeting with Tote Board, which Dr Teo-Koh described as being generous sponsors, will be held in the next six months.
She hopes that any changes can be implemented before the next APG in 2017.
Paralympian Theresa Goh, Singapore's top performer at last month's APG with five golds, said: "It's good news. When people want to raise the amount, it means that they are realising how much hard work and effort we put in."
Fellow Paralympian Yip Pin Xiu added: "Over the years, I've always had friends coming up to me and said I should be given more. But I don't make a hoo-ha about it. Because we don't do it for the money."
The issue of prize money parity with the able-bodied athletes first rose when Yip won Singapore's first Paralympic gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics.
She eventually received $200,000 for her efforts, which was double the previous amount. Nevertheless, it is a fifth of the $1 million that an able-bodied athlete would have received for an Olympic gold.
The latest discussion comes after what Dr Teo-Koh said had been a hugely inspiring Games, which Singapore hosted for the first time.
The 156-strong contingent delivered 24 golds, 17 silvers, and 22 bronzes at the biennial meet.
Critically, she said, it captured the imagination of an entire nation, as more than 600,000 people visited the APG carnival, while the week-long meet attracted some 124,000 spectators.
"The beauty for me was that people saw the abilities of the athletes, not their disabilities," said Dr Teo-Koh.
Last night's AAA reception had a Star Wars theme, as performers appeared in Jedi outfits wielding light-sabres while others greeted guests while wearing Stormtrooper costumes and clutching blasters.
The Force was strongest with the Republic's para swimmers, who pocketed the most prize money.
Goh (five golds), Toh Wei Soong (four) and Benson Tan (three) took home $6,000 each.
In all, 18 members of Singapore's record 154-strong contingent received the award from guest of honour, Minister of Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu.
Ms Fu hailed the efforts of Team Singapore, more than half of whom were debutants: "Regardless of experience, we saw nothing but the best effort from everyone.
"We saw grit and resilience among our athletes... (who) have been excellent ambassadors in showing how sport can help us lead fulfilled and engaged lives."
• Additional reporting by Alvin Chia