TL;DR – We don’t think it’s money.
The Team Singapore Paralympics have come home this morning, to rousing fanfare and lots of media attention too.
Almost inevitably, the media posed the question to them, about how they feel about our neighbouring Malaysia giving the same rewards to their athletes, Olympics and Paralympics. Again Yip said it’s not about the money. Her fellow Paralympian and good friend, Theresa Goh, said the same thing.
Of course, the money would be a bonus if it comes, but what they really want is to see more progress and more equality for persons with disabilities.
2016 has been a stellar year for Singaporean sports.
First, Joseph Schooling won Singapore’s first gold at the Olympics. In the process, he broke the Olympic Record and beat Michael Phelps, the greatest Olympian there ever was.
Then Yip Pin Xiu won two gold medals at the Paralympics, breaking the world record for the 100m backstroke for the S2 class. (Theresa Goh won Bronze, in case you weren’t following the news, a mighty feat too!)
While many Singaporeans celebrate these two amazing physical feats, they have also stirred some controversy. Schooling would get $1 million (less what he needs to give to the Singapore Swimming Association and taxes). But Yip would likely only get $200,000. It’s not sure if she’ll get to keep all of that.
There are many Singaporeans who are now asking for Yip to be rewarded the same amount of money as Schooling. We definitely celebrate the her achievement. It’s also heartening to know that there are some Singaporeans who are speaking up for equality for persons with disabilities.
However, we don’t think that Yip should get the same amount as Schooling. Why?
Neither Yip nor Schooling went into swimming for the money, and they’d said it in Rio when they were first posed the question, and they said it again when they came home. Yip said as much herself:
“As an athlete, I am not doing this for the money, so I’m not harbouring any hopes that (the prize money) will increase. My only hope is that there is equality shown to all athletes, both para-athletes and able-bodied athletes.”
It’s a fact that the Olympics and the Paralympics are on completely different levels. Just look at the amount of media attention. In USA, about 135,000 people watched the Opening Ceremony of the Rio Paralympics, while 26.49 MILLION people watched the Opening Ceremony of the Rio Olympics.
And in Singapore? People were protesting when we almost didn’t get live broadcast of the Rio Olympics. But for the Paralympics? We’ve NEVER, EVER, had live broadcast of that and no one has ever made any noise.
We’re not the only ones who think this way. Veteran sports journalist Godfrey Robert said yes, let’s honour Yip, but don’t put her in the same league as Schooling. He was flamed so badly. Daniel Yap of TheMiddleGround, too, thinks Yip should not get $1 million..
We say, let’s help everyone!
If we really wanted to promote equality and let more people know the amazing things that people with disabilities can achieve, then perhaps rather than giving that $1 million to Yip, we can put that money (and more) to broadcast the Paralympics live. Wouldn’t that be better use of the money?
After all, what would giving $1 million to Yip really achieve? Send a signal? Or mere tokenism?
As it is, there are so many other things that really should be done to make the lives of people with disabilities better. Wouldn’t that money be put to better use in developing the physical infrastructure and reduces the barriers for people with disabilities?
Or putting in the resources to help suitable candidates who have disabilities can find meaningful jobs and develop professionally.
The National Council of Social Services already have in place a campaign for that. If you haven’t watched it, you should.
But more can be done.
Particularly in helping companies restructure work to make it easier for persons with disabilities to get jobs. Like how MomoCentral, a Singapore startup that is an online marketplace for freelance web and app designers and developers, helped a visually handicapped developer get a job.
Hopefully, this discussion about Yip’s gold medals will bring about real change that benefits people of disability. We are pretty sure that is what Yip would really want.