Rewards for medal-winning athletes draw praise—and some grievancesWhile many appreciated the increased size of the purse, others were upset at the disparity between rewards for individual and team events.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on Wednesday announced cash rewards for Nepali athletes who won medals at the recently concluded 13th South Asian Games.
Each gold medal winner in individual events will receive a purse of Rs900,000 while the silver medal winners will walk away with Rs600,000, followed by Rs300,000 for bronze medal winners. Athletes winning more than one gold will receive Rs 1.1 million for each of their gold medals, said Oli.
Oli’s announcement means that Nepali swimming sensation Gaurika Singh, who won four gold and two silver medals in individual events, will walk away with the heaviest purse of at least Rs5.6 million. Singh also won three bronze medals in team events.
While Oli’s announcement was hailed by many for providing just rewards for athletes who are more often neglected, there was some confusion regarding the prize money for other categories, and for coaches.
“All the athletes are happy with the announcement of the increased prize amount. In the past, gold medal winners used to receive Rs500,000, so the increment of Rs400,000 has delighted everyone,” said karateka Deepak Shrestha, president of the Nepal National and International Players’ Association.
Shrestha appreciated that the state was finally cognizant of the hard work and years of dedication that athletes put into their performances and said that the prize money is certain to send a positive message to aspiring athletes and their parents as well.
“We are very optimistic that these rewards will be provided on time, unlike in the past where we had to wait for years,” said Shrestha, who had won gold medals at the 8th and 9th edition of the Games. “The delay in providing the announced reward kills the enthusiasm.”
While Oli said that gold winners in the team events would receive Rs500,000 each, he did not mention the prize money for silver and bronze in team events. Oli's announcement also made no mention of sports associations and members of the coaching staff. This has upset players from team sports like basketball and volleyball.
“We came here with a lot of expectations, but rewards were not announced for silver and bronze medal winners in team events. This has left us deeply disappointed and we are demotivated,” said Sadish Pradhan, men’s basketball team captain, in response to Oli’s announcement. The Nepali men’s basketball team finished with a bronze medal at the Games.
Pradhan said that there was a danger of the players on his team now switching to individual events as the rewards are higher.
“The disparity in reward for medal winners in individual and team events is saddening,” he said. “We all put in the same effort despite the nature of the sport we compete in.”
Women’s volleyball team captain Aruna Shahi, who led Nepal to their first silver at the regional sports meet, echoed Pradhan.
“Whether it be individual or team events, all athletes put in an equal effort,” said Shahi. “Our camp is certainly feeling sour.”
Ramesh Kumar Silwal, National Sports Council member secretary, defended the rewards, saying they were in keeping with established norms.
“We are following the international practice in rewarding athletes,” he said. “Even at the Olympics, winners in the individual and team events do not receive equal rewards.”
Silwal, however, said that the government had yet to formulate a regulation that will decide all rewards.
“Following today's announcement, we will formulate regulations to include rewards for those who were not mentioned today,” he said. “The next Cabinet meeting will hold discussions on the remaining aspects.”
Despite grievances from team sports, most athletes appeared pleased with the increased size of the purse.
"We were only expecting about Rs700,000, so the announcement has exceeded our expectations,” said Sushmita Tamang, who won a gold in changquan thaulo of wushu. “I believe the state has recognised our effort, dedication and sacrifices in doing the nation proud.”
Nepal finished second, behind India, with 51 gold, 60 silver and 95 bronze medals at the regional sporting event, which concluded at the Dashrath Stadium on Tuesday.