Uproar at 'pathetic' twist in Aussie Olympic heroes' bonus payment

Kaylee McKeown, Chelsea Hodges, Emma McKeon and Cate Campbell, pictured here after the 4x100m medley relay at the Tokyo Olympics.
Kaylee McKeown, Chelsea Hodges, Emma McKeon and Cate Campbell pose with their gold medals after the 4x100m medley relay at the Tokyo Olympics. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

The Australian Olympic Committee has revealed a cash payment for medal winners at the Tokyo Games won't be given to athletes who are retiring.

It emerged during the Tokyo Olympics that Australia's medallists would be rewarded for their efforts with $20,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze.

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However the AOC confirmed this week that the payment won't go to athletes who stop competing.

The AOC told the ABC the 'Medical Incentive Funding' is "an annual athlete incentive scheme, not a reward program".

"MIF aims to incentivise athletes to continue training, with the goal of representing Australia at the next Olympic Games, summer and winter.

"Athletes must maintain appropriate training regimes with the intention of gaining national selection in the following year in order to receive the payment."

That means any athlete who won a medal in Tokyo but is planning to retire won't receive their money.

However some individual sporting organisations have their own bonus payments in place, while a number of high-profile Australians have pledged to pay our medal-winning athletes.

For example, billionaire Harry Triguboff pledged to donate $645,000 (or $5000 each) to Australia's Olympic medallists.

The 88-year-old said he had been motivated to make the donation in light of the significant disruption to the athletes' preparation and finances due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mining magnate Gina Rinehart also offers financial support for Australia's swimmers.

Nevertheless, Australians were still gobsmacked to learn the AOC payment won't go to retiring athletes, with some labelling the development "disgraceful" and "pathetic".

Paralympians receive equal payments as Olympic compatriots

Unlike their able-bodied counterparts, Australia's Paralympic medallists will still receive bonus payments even if they are retiring.

Last week Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the federal government would reward each Australian Paralympics medal in Tokyo with the same money that the AOC provides for the Olympic team.

Australians were left seething after initially learning that our Paralympic heroes don't receive the same payments.

But after a groundswell of calls for change, the federal government stepped in.

Paralympics Australia hailed it as a landmark move towards equity in sport and wheelchair tennis great Dylan Alcott called it a win for people power.

Dylan Alcott, pictured here after winning gold at the Tokyo Paralympics.
Dylan Alcott celebrates after winning gold at the Tokyo Paralympics. (Photo by Ilse Schaffers/BSR Agency/Getty Images) NOCNSF

"How cool is this news. It's because of all of you backing the Paralympic Games and making some noise to make this change happen," Alcott tweeted.

"We appreciate the support of the Australian public so much, and hope the last week has put some smiles on some faces back home!"

The government added it will work with Paralympics Australia and other sporting bodies to increase corporate backing for para-sports.

"Australia's para-athletes have represented our nation with great distinction and pride in Tokyo, delivering performances that have buoyed millions during what is a difficult time for the nation," the government said in a statement announcing the funding.

"This additional commercial revenue could ensure Paralympics Australia can sustainably make medal bonus payments to athletes at future Paralympics."

It means Australia's Olympic and Paralympic medallists will go home with a total of roughly $2 million in bonus payments.

with AAP

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