The theme of the Games in Tokyo 2020 is “Unity in Diversity” and promotes ideals of equality and acceptance. But when it comes to cash prizes for Olympians and Paralympists, this is nowhere near the case in some countries like Australia and host country Japan.
In Australia, as in many other countries, the National Committees of the Olympic and Paralympic teams are responsible for funding their athletes’ medal awards.
But Paralympic Australia just doesn’t have the funds for medal awards – and they never have, a spokesman told SBS News. Meanwhile, the Olympic Committee is offering Australia gold, silver and bronze winners cash prizes of $ 20,000, $ 15,000 and $ 10,000, respectively.
Sprinter Scott Reardon is no stranger to a Paralympic podium. As Australia’s Male Paralympian of the Year 2016, Reardon won a silver medal in his class in the 100m sprint at the 2012 London Paralympic Games before taking gold in record time at the 2016 Rio Games. At the Tokyo games, he’s the man to beat.
“In a perfect world we would have equality everywhere – in men’s sports, in women’s sports, in parasports. But the reality is that we are treated differently and we are lagging behind,” said Reardon.
Canada, along with other major nations, does not give cash prizes to Paralympian medalists – although funds are available for their Olympic medalists.
As for the host country Japan, a gold-winning Paralympian will earn around $ 38,000. That’s $ 25,000 less than their healthy counterparts.
For New Zealanders, Paralympic and Olympic medalists do not receive medal awards, but they do receive equal grants for their international accomplishments to aid their training.
From Tokyo, Reardon said for a while that he believed the Australian Paralympic Committee was “essentially broke”. He said if the funds were in place he would be confident that Paralympic Australia would be anything for it.
Ultimately, the lack of a medal bonus speaks to a wider problem of tight funding in Australian parasports, Reardon said.
“There are a lot of para-athletes who just don’t make a lot of money. You need to work full-time and be a full-time athlete at the same time. It’s not at all beneficial to be the best in the world, ”said the 31-year-old.
“I know a lot of Paralympic gold medalists who don’t have a sponsor, who don’t have a commercial agreement with a company, and I think that has to change.”
Serena Ovens, CEO of NSW’s Physical Disability Council, says as a population “we absolutely still see disability as something less”.
“We value our Olympians, but we still don’t believe our Paralympians have reached the same elite level.
“Paralympists work just as hard, if not harder, to get to where they stand for their country.”
Reardon says when it comes down to it, the Australian Olympic and Paralympic Committees are two separate entities competing for corporate dollars. “Right now, for anyone in the corporate space who thinks this isn’t good enough, we almost need someone to stand up,” he said.
“We would have the opportunity in Australia if someone like Gina Rinehart – who already finances the sport – would step in. It would be a small drop for her to be able to pay out these medal awards.”
Regardless, he hopes more people will sit down and watch on the silver lining of the lockdowns in two major Australian cities.
“Since it’s on commercial television, the bigger the audience we have, the more businesses and people with money are realizing that it is an investment and a platform for them to advertise,” Reardon said. “Maybe then we can achieve equality.”
Over the years, improvements have been made around the world to fill the award gap. Eight-time Paralympic medalist Oksana Masters celebrated in tears in 2018 when the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee announced that U.S. Paralympians would receive the same medal award as Olympians at the Tokyo Games.
Ms. Ovens suggested that improvements could be made to the way donations are made or shared between the two institutions.
“I don’t think it’s fair that companies or other organizations that sponsor Olympians don’t sponsor Paralympians too, so there may be some work involved,” Ms. Ovens said.
Australian paracyclist Meg Lemon hopes early success at the Tokyo Games will lead to more support for Team Australia.
“I think some other nations are catching up on that balance … I hope that awareness is” [pay] Discrepancy can grow, “said the 31-year-old.
“We only get money [to train] from the government when we win a medal at a world championship. It’s hard to work and train at the same time. I hope our success and hard work will be enough to show Australia that something more is worth investing in. “
Paralympics Australia declined to comment.