‘Athletes did it for the country, not the money’

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SEPANG: Monetary incentives were the last thing on the minds of athletes when competing in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics, Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said.

Speaking to reporters during a press conference here today, Khairy said when he was in Rio de Janeiro for a week, none of the Olympians ever brought up the topic of rewards and incentives.

“Incentives were the last thing on their minds. Every time when we met them, they never even asked about it.

“Because to them, their achievement is for the country.”

Khairy also revealed a conversation that took place between him and national shuttler Lee Chong Wei in Rio, where the latter had refused to discuss on increasing incentives for high-achieving national athletes.

“Before the badminton doubles final match, I asked him, maybe if we increase the incentive, we might see some improvements.

“Then he (Lee) said to me that there’s no need to discuss about increasing incentives, because we are doing it for the country.

“The athletes never did it for the money. They did it for the country.”

Meanwhile, Lee, who bagged a silver in the badminton men’s singles, expressed gratitude for the tremendous support shown by Malaysians, pointing out that the encouraging cheers were a form of motivation for athletes.

“I want to thank my supporters a lot. I was disappointed at myself for getting the silver medal three times in a row.

“But, I’m still very happy. Despite the defeat, we still have fans encouraging us.

“This is a motivation for all athletes. I hope we can keep it up,” he said at the press conference held after a welcoming home ceremony for Malaysian Olympians at the Bunga Raya Complex of the KL International Airport here.

“This is the first time badminton has achieved so much. Maybe this time we didn’t manage to get the gold medal, but we might be able to win the gold medal in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.”

On what he was planning for the future, Lee said he did not want to think about it yet, but wishes to take a rest first.

However, he did mention that he would at least give the World Championships one more shot.

“I will try for the world championship next year. In my mind, (there is) still one more. I know I lost the world championship twice.”