5-time Paralympic gold medallist Yip Pin Xiu to receive inaugural President's Award for Inspiring Achievement

The award will sit alongside other rewards presented by the President for outstanding accomplishments.

Jason Fan | October 05, 2021, 03:59 PM

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Five-time Paralympic gold medallist Yip Pin Xiu will be the first recipient of the new President's Award for Inspiring Achievement, for instilling national pride in her fellow Singaporeans.

This was announced by Minister for Community, Culture and Youth Edwin Tong in Parliament on Tuesday (Oct. 5), when he moved a Parliamentary Motion to honour Singaporean athletes at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

During his speech in Parliament, Tong also addressed the disparity in cash awards for Olympics and Paralympics medallists, and announced that efforts are ongoing to enhance incentives for para-athletes in the future.

Given only to those who meet "high qualifying criteria"

Lauding Yip as Singapore's "most decorated Paralympian", Tong spoke at length about her many accolades in the sporting scene, most notably her six medals across four Paralympic Games, five of which are gold medals.

He said that her medal tally is a testament to her "tremendous longevity and staying power", and that Yip has always managed to find "something extra" whenever challenged, in order to beat her competitors.

In order to recognise her accomplishments, a new President's Award for Inspiring Achievement will be created, and she will be its inaugural recipient.

According to Tong, this award will sit alongside other rewards presented by the President for outstanding accomplishments, and will recognise Singaporeans who have overcome personal adversity and led inspiring lives.

He also said that the award will only be presented to deserving recipients who meet its "high qualifying criteria", and that it may not be given out every year.

"Pin Xiu has demonstrated these exceptional qualities. She has stared adversity in its face, time and time again, overcame it. She is truly an inspiration to Singaporeans, and it is only appropriate that she will now become the inaugural recipient of this award."

Working on enhancing cash awards for para-athletes

Tong also addressed the elephant in the room: The disparity in cash awards between Olympic medallists and Paralympic medallists.

For example, Olympic gold medallists in Singapore receive one of the highest monetary awards in the world for an Olympic gold medal — S$1 million.

The only person to ever receive the coveted S$1 million award is national swimmer Joseph Schooling, who made history by winning a gold medal for the 100-metre butterfly during the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Paralympians who won a gold medal, on the other hand, receive a substantially smaller award of S$200,000.

Speaking to Mothership, Yip said that at first she found it difficult to speak up about this as she was the person "in the middle of it all."

However, she said that her perspective has changed over the years and her status as such a medal winner lets her speak up about it:

"This inequality is happening. For me personally, I don't think it's really so much about the money, but it's more of the message that is sent out...that people with disabilities are not equal."

Cash awards funded by private sponsors: Tong

Tong explained that the cash rewards given to Olympians and Paralympians are managed by the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) and Singapore National National Paralympic Council (SNPC) respectively, and that the awards given by the two organisations have been funded entirely by private sponsors.

Tong said that the award amounts offered are raised and determined by the SNOC and SNPC respectively, along with their sponsors, in accordance with the standard, size and field of competition for each of the major games.

He emphasised that the difference in cash quantums "does not reflect how government values our para-athletes vis-a-vis our able-bodied athletes", and that they are all "Team Singapore athletes".

However, Tong said that the SNPC is currently working on enhancing cash awards for para-athletes in major games, having had discussions with a few entities, and that they will announce the outcome of their efforts in due course.

Team Singapore made history

Tong also paid homage to the various Olympians and Paralympians who participated in the recent games, praising their efforts on the world stage.

Despite the challenges posed by Covid-19, Tong said that Team Singapore "made history" at the recent Olympics, with athletes competing in equestrian, marathon swimming and diving for the first time.

This was not easy, given how the pandemic had severely impacted the training plans for many Team Singapore athletes, affecting their ability to travel for qualification trials and global competitions.

"But our athletes adjusted, adapted; they fought hard to reach their peaks again, after the postponement of the games in July 2020," praised Tong.

In addition, Tong also noted that out of the 23 athletes sent to the Olympics, 17 were Olympic debutants.

"These are very encouraging figures, and a testament to the growth and potential of high performance sports in Singapore," said Tong.

Impact of Covid perhaps greater on Paralympians: Tong

Moving on to the Paralympics, Tong said that the impact of Covid-19 was perhaps even greater for Singapore's Paralympians.

For example, while some could go online for training and instructions, visually impaired athletes found it difficult to adapt to virtual trainings.

Despite these setbacks, Tong said that he did not hear any excuses or complaints from the various Paralympians, and that he only saw an "unwavering desire" to give their best during the games.

Tong congratulated Team Singapore athletes for flying the national flag high at Tokyo 2020, and thanked them for their exceptional performances and indomitable fighting spirit.

He credited the athletes for bringing cheer and joy to Singapore during one of the most challenging periods in the nation's history, and for inspiring and uniting Singaporeans from all walks of life as they supported their Olympic and Paralympic journey.

"Just as the greats who have come before you, these men and women have made many personal sacrifices to carry our country’s hopes, our flag and our aspirations to the very pinnacle of sports. These are also the same men and women who have and will continue to inspire generations of athletes to come after them, to rise up, stand on their shoulders, reach higher, and bring even more honour and glory to our nation."

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Top image via Yip Pin Xiu/FB.