SA’s Olympic medallists spurred by cash incentives

Not only is the pot unlimited if athletes win more than one medal, but, for the first time, individual coaches will also benefit from the incentive scheme announced by the country's Olympic governing body, Sascoc, in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

"Sascoc are definitely putting their weight behind the athletes," said South Africa's 50km walk record holder Marc Mundell.

"I feel it is so important that coaches also get adequate recognition for their hard work behind the scenes, which often goes unnoticed.

"The athletes are now aware that there is something at the end for them and that their struggle, their heartache and all the blood, sweat and toil, is ultimately worth it.

"They can put something aside for the future and have something to fall back on because most athletes have put their careers on hold.

Competing for 500 medals
"The more South Africa sport incentivises its athletes, the better the performances will be ultimately."

Incentives for the Olympic and Paralympic medallists differed vastly but Sascoc president Gideon Sam said it was necessary to distinguish between the two contests.

"In the Paralympic Games approximately 4 000 athletes are competing for approximately 500 medals, while in the Olympics, there are around 10 500 athletes competing for only 300 medals," Sam said.

He used the example of the 100m final at the able-bodied Games, where only one athlete could win gold, but in the disabled event, various classification systems were applied and 13 medals were up for grabs.

Samkelo Radebe, who will compete in both the 100m and 200m events at the Paralympics, said he felt the distinction was justified.

"It's a pity they didn't announce these incentives earlier as I would have tried to grow my hands back," joked Radebe, who lost both his arms, below the elbow, after being electrocuted as a child.

Pocket of cash
"Seriously though, once the difference was explained to me, I realise it's a fair deal.

"I think it's great they've decided to reward the coaches as well – we didn't see that one coming."

Should a South African Olympic athlete win a gold medal, he or she will take home an impressive R400 000 and their coach will pocket R100 000.

Silver and bronze medals are worth R200 000 and R80 000 respectively, while their coaches will receive R50 000 and R20 000 respectively.

Paralympic athletes will receive R100 000 for gold, R75 000 for silver, and R40 000 for bronze.

The coaches will be rewarded to the tune of R20 000, R15 000 and R10 000 respectively.

This is a significant increase from what was offered at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where the total purse was R500 000, which was to have been divided between all the medal winners.

Long jumper Khotso Mokoena, who secured silver, walked away with the entire pot as the country's only medallist at the able-bodied Games.

"Obviously winning an Olympic or Paralympic medal is in itself a huge achievement and something to be cherished for life," said Sascoc chief executive Tubby Reddy.

"But we felt that it was only fitting that there also be some sort of financial incentive as well.

"We are all too aware of the sacrifices made by our leading sportsmen and women, and their coaches, and this should go some way to rewarding them."

The Olympics start on July 27 and run until August 12 while the Paralympics get underway on August 29 and end on September 9. – Sapa

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