Yip Pin Xiu and the Prize Money Debate
Before there was Joseph Schooling, there was Yip Pin Xiu. That's something we mentioned in this September issue of the magazine and as we expected, she outperformed the competition to claim the Olympic gold in the 100m backstroke in 2 minutes 7.09 seconds, simultaneously breaking the world record of 59.38s at the split (both previous records were hers, I believe).
There was quite some rah rah in the public space, certainly, and plenty of attention given to her just as when Joseph Schooling won his Olympic gold. The Prime Minister offered his thanks and congratulations to the Paralympian and the other Paralympians representing Singapore online. But yet, Pin Xiu is set to receive S$200,000 as prize money from the government (S$170,000 after taxes). Schooling received S$1 million before taxes.
Why the discrepancy, Singapore? If anything, shouldn't she receive more?
This isn't a put down of Schooling, who is a brilliant swimmer, or any of the other Olympians who have represented us. But let's compare the differences. Yip Pin Xiu has muscular dystrophy and she managed to complete a backstroke lap in 59.38 seconds. I have complete (more or less) control of my limbs and I can't manage a 100m backstroke in 2 min 07.09s. Why isn't her accomplishment far more impressive?
If Schooling is recognised for his incredible dedication to his lifelong love of swimming, surely Pin Xiu should be even more respected, considering he's in perfect physical condition and health, while she has to battle a physical disorder where the muscles that she trains on a daily basis is constantly being eroded by her own body? While Schooling's training efforts add to his performance day on day, each day to her must seem like it comes with a 'reset' button that requires extra work to stack on performance.
Mr Schooling's family spent S$1.5million ensuring he had the best training and battling the government to allow him to defer his national service. Miss Yip's family must have spent a ton of money battling her illness and more so to keep her training going on. If that somehow rates less standing than Mr Schooling, that's sad.
I believe that all sportspersons deserve great respect. I believe all people with a handicap who spend their entire lives trying to overcome their handicap also deserve admiration. And when you have someone who is both, double the respect. But only 20% of the prize money?
This country (and this world at large) should do better by Yip Pin Xiu. We should honour her effort on par with the Oylmpians we've honoured so much in the past few months. Otherwise we've literally valued a handicapped world record holder as less than a regular person. What does that say about our society?
*The opinions of this article are strictly that of the author.