Para-sports: First-ever cash awards for youth para-athletes at AYPG awards ceremony

Team Singapore's Asia Youth Para Games swimmer Wong Zhi Wei, with his parents, receiving his cash award at the Athletes Achievement Awards ceremony on Jan 26. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - Team Singapore's Asia Youth Para Games (AYPG) medallists were rewarded for their achievements at the Athletes Achievement Awards ceremony on Friday night (Jan 26), the first time youth para-athletes have received cash incentives for their performances at an international Games.

A total of $3,500 was disbursed to the 11 Games medallists, who were part of the 28-strong contingent that had returned with the Republic's largest AYPG medal haul of five golds, six silvers and seven bronzes in December.

The quadrennial event's third edition was held in Dubai from Dec 10-13 and attracted 715 participants from 30 teams. Singapore finished 15th in the standings.

The NTUC FairPrice Foundation sponsored the gold medal awards ($400), with fitness company Actxa sponsoring the silver ($200) and bronze ($100) awards.

"It's always been a struggle for us (to secure funding) so this is a good sign that people are recognising and valuing our athletes' performances," said Singapore National Paralympic Council chairman Kevin Wong.

"We cannot depend on just the government to help us and corporates play a big role. Para-sports is competitive, not recreational, and the AYPG has been a reflection that more people are coming to appreciate that."

Swimmer Wong Zhi Wei was Singapore's most bemedalled athlete at the Games with three golds and two silvers and received the largest cash award of the night at Scape Treetop. He received $1,200, or $400 for each gold.

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He did not receive an award for his silvers as only the top-three achievements of Games athletes are recognised under the Quantum Award Scheme.

Said Zhi Wei, 15, who is partially blind: "It's been a real honour to represent Singapore and I'm very grateful for the sponsors and organisers who have been behind us at the Games. It shows the constant support in Singapore for us para-athletes."

The Catholic High School Secondary Four student added that he would be saving the money for his education and training needs.

Unlike their senior able-bodied and para-sports counterparts, youth athletes do not receive cash incentives under the Multi-Million Dollar Award Programme (MAP).

Sailors Bernie Chin and Samantha Yom, gold medallists at the last Youth Olympic Games in 2014, received a $50,000 sports scholarship instead. Also sponsored by the NTUC FairPrice Foundation, the scholarship can be used to offset school or tuition fees and purchase of training and competition equipment, among other things.

Olympic swimmer Quah Zheng Wen was Singapore's top performer at the last Asian Youth Games in 2013 with three golds, two silvers and a bronze, which netted him $18,750 under a similar scholarship scheme.

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