By Mark Etheridge
SASCOC President Gideon Sam confirmed that by hook or by crook our Paralympic Games medallists would receive the same financial medal incentives as their Olympic counterparts did a few weeks back.
Sam was speaking at Team South Africa’s final London debriefing on conclusion of an event that saw South Africa win 29 medals ÔÇô eight gold, 12 silver and nine bronze.
Before the Olympic Game,s medal winners were promised R400,000, R200,000 and R80,000 and Paralympic medal-winners, purely because of the vast number of classifications and events compared to the Olympics, got R100,000, R75,000 and R40,000.
But Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula said at the Games on Saturday that the Paralympian medal winners deserved the same incentives.
President Sam had no problem with the Minister’s observations. “In sport the politics of sport are handled by the Minister. Issues of policy formulation are in his and his deputy’s hands. He watched a Chinese swimmer here at the weekend and whispered in my ear about how ‘that takes some doing’.
“He then said that there should be no discrimination about preparations and rewards. We at SASCOC are implementers of policy so we listen and react, there’s no debate about increasing them. My Chief Executive Officer Mr Tubby Reddy and the DG of Sport Mr Alex Moemi back in South Africa will find the money somewhere.
“And again, we will plan better and better ahead of 2016. This is not an issue… our athletes arriving back at the airport on Tuesday will get their money just as the Olympians did.”
Sam also acknowledged the uphill struggle on the Paralympic front. “We have seen here that the world is not waiting for us and we have to catch up. This journey here in London now ends and another starts immediately. We’ll go into another camp and design the future. We simply have to improve our structures back at home or else we are done. We once again go to the provinces to talk to the people who support us.”
Deputy Minister Mr Gert Oosthuizen agreed with Sam. “We have to find more resources in a challenging time but simply throwing money at it doesn’t help. We need the structures.”
Wrapping up and popular Team Chef de Mission, Pieter Badenhorst congratulated the team under his control. “People told me that looking after athletes is like ‘herding cats’ but to be honest this team didn’t need controlling, and they did their job.
“Yes we ended with 29 medals, one short of Beijing but looking at the bigger picture like at this conference, which other nation at this Games can host a meeting with three Laureus Sports Awards winners and two athletes who have competed at both the Olympics and Paralympics?
“And what better signing-off than to have the South African anthem as the last anthem played at the Paralympic Games [after Oscar Pistorius won gold in the T44 400m]? It doesn’t get better. We had to wait until the last night for that final medal rush but they came eventually.”