London – South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) president Gideon Sam confirmed the Paralympic athletes would earn the same bonuses their able-bodied counterparts received on their triumphant return from the London Games.
“We have conceded as Sascoc that we will go with the minister but what it will also mean is that going forward to 2016, we will have to do our planning better,” said Sam speaking in London on Sunday after sports minister Fikile Mbalula surprised Paralympic medal winners on Saturday, by announcing they deserved equal financial rewards.
“We’ve already started the ball rolling and yesterday we asked the two gentlemen back home, Tubby Reddy (Sascoc CEO) and Alec Moemi (director general for sport) to go and find the money,” said Sam.
“So when the athletes arrive home, we would have already sorted it out.
“We are not going to debate the issue of whether or not we should increase the amounts because it would sour this campaign.”
When Sascoc originally announced the incentives in July, they offered Olympic athletes R400 000 for a gold medal, while silver and bronze medals were worth R200 000 and R80 000 respectively.
For the first time, their coaches were also recognised and were to received R100 000 for a gold medal, R50 000 for silver and R20 000 for bronze.
Paralympic athletes were offered R100 000 for gold, R75 000 for silver, and R40 000 for bronze because the playing fields were slightly different.
At the time of the announcement, Sam said it had been necessary to distinguish between the two contests.
“In the Paralympic Games approximately 4 200 athletes are competing for approximately 503 medals, while in the Olympics, there are around 10 500 athletes competing for only 300 medals.”
Mbalula, after being visibly moved watching the aquatics on Friday night, said the Paralympians warranted a special place in everyone's hearts and they embraced the spirit of no surrender and said to pay the Paralympic athletes anything less would be discriminatory.
“That bonuses are not the issue here,” said Sam.
“The issue is how Oscar Pistorius and all these wonderful athletes have performed here – people who gave their all for the campaign.
“So on Tuesday, when these athletes arrive at the airport in Johannesburg, they will receive their money just as the Olympic athletes received their money.”
Sam paid tribute to the icons of Paralympic sport, singling out Pistorius, cyclist Ernst van Dyk and Natalie du Toit who bowed out of all competitive swimming at these Games.
“I remember Natalie some years ago in her hospital bed in Cape Town and I told her she’d become a superstar and she believed it,” Sam said.
“From my side, and on behalf of the sports movement, we thank her very much.
“I know it’s a bit emotional for her, and even from our side, to see her go, especially for those of us who have been with her in swimming for all those years.
“Natalie, I’m sure there will be a place for you in the sun – in the sports sun back home – so take from us all our good wishes and we wish you well in your next career,” he said. – Sapa