PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Paralympians do receive the same incentives and rewards as their able bodied counterparts, said Malaysian Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.
A Paralympic gold medallist will receive the same RM1 million (S$331,000) reward as an Olympian, up from RM300,000 in the past.
"Our para-athletes' achievements and sacrifices must be honoured the same as other athletes.
"Today Malaysia is one of the only countries in the world that gives the same incentives to normal and 'extraordinary' athletes," he said on his Facebook page on Sunday (Sept 11).
Mr Khairy recalled that when he was first elected Youth and Sports Minister three years ago, he received news from Lyon, France, of a Malaysian para-athlete named Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli who won at the World Athletics Championships.
"I asked an officer at the ministry if there was an incentive for the win but was told that para-athletes were rewarded 30% less than a normal athlete," he said.
He added that at the National Sports Council board, he brought up the issue to change the policy so that all athletes will be rewarded equally.
Mr Khairy said that, as his proposal received initial rejection from the board, he challenged them if they "knew what it takes to be a world champion with a disability? And what it takes to overcome your disability and succeed?" but was greeted with silence.
The Youth and Sports Minister thanked Muhammad Ziyad for giving him the courage back then to change the way para-athletes were treated.
"I would not know how to feel 30% proud of them. I only feel 100% proud of our para heroes. They have shown us that yes, they are not ordinary. They are extraordinary," he said.
"They are called Paralympians because they compete in the Paralympics. They are proud to be called Paralympians," said Mr Khairy when responding to a tweet that said the athletes should not be called Paralympians.
He also announced that the Paralympians will arrive in Malaysia on Sept 22 and urged Malaysians to welcome them home.