KJ: How I made sure of equal pay for parathletes

khairy Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli'PETALING JAYA: Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin today related the story of how the country’s Paralympians receive the same amount of allowances as given to fully-abled athletes.

Writing on Facebook, after twin gold medal victories by Malaysians at the Rio Paralympic Games yesterday, Khairy related what had happened three years ago, after Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli’s victory at a World Athletics Championship in Lyon, France.

“I was given this answer: ‘They’re given less because they’re in para (sic) sports. I then questioned how much less they were given. (I was told) ‘Parathletes get 30 per cent of the pay for normal athletes’,” Khairy said.

Khairy said that he had raised the matter again at a meeting of the National Sports Council, saying that it was not fair that parathletes received less, and suggested that the policy be changed.

“Many arguments were raised nixing my suggestion,” he wrote. The officials said that paralympics were new, their events were not widely attended, and that it was easy to win because there were too many categories and events at the Paralympics.

“I remembered Ziyad and his sacrifices. I borrowed Ziyad’s spirit and asked, in English, ‘Do any of you around this table know what it takes to become a world champion with a disability? What it takes to overcome your disability and succeed?’

“No one answered. I then said, ‘Well then. From now on all Malaysian athletes, no matter whether they are normal athletes or parathletes, will be given the same pay”.

He said parathletes must be honoured the same as other athletes. “Not 30% of ‘normal’ athletes. I would not know how to feel 30% proud of them. I only feel 100% proud of our para heroes. They have shown us that yes, they are not ordinary. They are extraordinary,” Khairy wrote.

Yesterday, parathlete sprinter Mohamad Ridzuan Mohamad Puzi won a gold medal for Malaysia in the 100m T36 (celebral palsy) sprint, while world champion Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli set a new world record in the men’s shot put F20 (intellectual disability) event.