UPDATE 2 September 2021: The federal government has announced that Aussie Paralympians will receive the same cash prize as Olympians.
With our gold medal tally continuing to climb, it's been a time of celebration for Australia at the Tokyo Paralympics. However, a lesser-known fact is that while the Aussies who placed first at the Olympics just weeks ago received a significant cash prize along with their gold medal, Paralympians unfortunately won't.
Monetary rewards are determined independently by different national committees for the Olympic and Paralympic teams, and according to a report by SBS, the Paralympics committee can't afford to award athletes with cash.
The publication reported that a spokesperson from Paralympics Australia indicated the organisation "simply doesn’t have the funds for medal bonuses – and they never have".
Canada's situation is similar, where Olympic gold medallists receive $22,000 but Paralympians who win gold get nothing. Japan gives Olympians winning gold $63,000 and Paralympians $38,000, while the US gives both Olympic and Paralympic gold medal winners the same amount of $52,000.
The cash reward for winning gold is separate from the Australian Institute of Sport's means-tested grants offered to both Olympians and Paralympians. The federal government also provides $50.6 million of "high performance grants" across both teams.
"I think some other nations are catching up to that equilibrium…I hope the awareness around that [pay] discrepancy can grow," Australian para-cyclist Meg Lemon told SBS.
"We only get money [to train] from the government if we win a medal at a world championship. It's hard to work and train at the same time. I hope our success and how hard we work is enough to show Australia that we are worth investing in a little bit more."
Aussie sprinter Scott Reardon is also competing in the Tokyo Paralympics. He said many para-athletes "simply don't make much money" and go without sponsorship or commercial agreements — and things need to change. He acknowledged that it could be tough for the Paralympics committee to get funding but a donor could help.
"We would have the ability in Australia if someone like Gina Rinehart - who funds sport already - stepped in. For her, it would be a small drop to be able to pay those medal bonuses out," he told the news outlet.
The 31-year-old said that a growing interest in the Paralympics this year could hopefully prompt change.
"With it being on commercial television, the bigger the audience that we have, the more businesses and people with money will realise that it's an investment and a platform for them to advertise," he added. "Maybe then we can achieve equality."
In a statement provided to Refinery29 Australia on Monday, Paralympics Australia Chief Executive Lynne Anderson said: “Paralympics Australia absolutely agrees that our Paralympians deserve equity of recognition. PA have never had a funding program for Paralympic Games medalists as we just don’t have this funding available from grants or sponsorship. This is something we will look at again after the Tokyo Games.”
Let's keep watching and supporting our Paralympians, which is easy to do by streaming live on 7Plus.
Refinery29 Australia has contacted Paralympics Australia for comment.