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'We earn less for doing for the same job.' Why the Paralympics still has a long way to go.

In a recent article by SBS, it was exposed that while Olympic athletes will be receiving medal bonus after their Tokyo performances, Paralympians will not. 

This is not completely incorrect, but if you were to ask if Paralympians receive equal pay to their Olympic counter parts? The answer would be: hell no

Australia’s Olympic Committee offers a medal bonus cash prize of $20,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 to bronze medal winners. 

In contrast, Paralympics Australia has no money to offer their athletes. 

Their money is spent up just getting the athletes to the games, and doing so safely - which this year, has been no easy feat. Remember, these organisations work separately to each other and work with entirely different sponsors. 

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For a Paralympic athlete there are various funding schemes. The first, and main one for most, being the Australian Government ‘dAIS’ scheme. As part of the Australian Institute of Sport’s high-performance strategy this scheme aims to support athletes with direct financial support. This funding is available every year, not just on a Games year, and is paid out every six months. 

There's a lot eligibility criteria to meet, including means testing and the athlete’s individual world ranking. 

This funding is for athletes who attend the Olympic, Paralympics and Commonwealth Games. This funding is equal for all athletes as well. Some athletes with a particularly high earning (perhaps from sponsorships) are not eligible as they earn above the threshold already.

As a 2016 Paralympian, this is the funding that is the most vital for my training. This funding does increase based on your world ranking at major benchmark meets - so this year, that would be the Games. The better you do, the more you will receive. 

Image: Sport Australia. 

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After this, the funding depends on the sport. 

National Sports Organisations can and do offer medal incentives. These incentives usually increase on a Games year. 

Different sports will go about this in different ways, for swimming there is a designated ‘medal pool’ that is divided into shares for the medal winners. For example, for the Para athletes, a gold medal is 10 shares, silver is 7.5, bronze 5. Relays are slightly less. 

However, the difference comes when we look at how much money is actually in the medal pool. 

For the 2020 Tokyo Games, Olympic Swimmers have a medal pool of $170,000, whereas Paralympic Swimmers have just $50,000. For context, that’s not enough to cover the cost of my prosthetic leg.

On top of this, as a swimmer (again based on performance rankings) athletes are eligible for funding throughout the year from our NSO. However, it is less than the Olympic program. Additional support can come from individual state institutes of sport, and they usually have funding to cover costs of things like physiotherapy, dietitians and psychology. 

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Finally, there are scholarships and mentorships that are on offer through organisations such as Australian Sports Hall of Fame. 

Depending on sponsors and funding, different NSOs can offer different amounts to their athletes. While acknowledging that politics, team sponsorships and income to the NSO all play a part as to why there is less money for Para athletes, at the end of the day, we are earning less than able-bodied athletes for doing the same job.

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And as a Paralympian, it doesn’t make sense to me. 

While there is immense support of Para athletes of all sports, and this has continued to increase since the first Paralympic games where athletes had to pay their own way to attend, there is still a long way to go.  

You have to work hard to get the funding to stretch over the cost of training centres, coaches, physio, doctors, mobility equipment (racing wheelchairs, and prosthetics) competition travel and fees, which are all necessary to keep up with the world’s best. 

There are fund-raising campaigns to gather money for Tokyo medallists, which does come with its own complications. Some athletes from sports such as taekwondo will receive $0 for any medal, compared to other sports like swimming or athletics who will receive, not enough, but some. Other athletes may have medal bonuses written into sponsorship contracts as well. 

A good place to start to help our Paralympic athletes, past, present, and future is to donate to Paralympic Australia. But beyond that, tune in to Channel 7 to watch and support our Paralympians, as its support and awareness that will help ensure our funding continues to grow. 

Feature Image: Supplied/Getty/Mamamia. 

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