Paralympic Athletes to Get Equal Pay

When Oksana Masters found out that the US Olympic Committee had voted to begin giving Paralympians the same medal bonuses as their Olympian counterparts, she simply burst into tears. As someone who has taken home a medal 8 times, and was once so broke during training for the Games in 2014 that she had to sleep in her car, she was shocked by the reports. 

A Significant Development

This is a notable development, both financially and emotionally, for Masters and her counterparts. Not only does this new policy take Paralympic payouts up to 400%, it is also going to apply retroactively, to the 2018 games. Medal winners will be getting US$1.2 million for their achievements this year, and it’s money most of them desperately need in order to cover what their travel and equipment cost.

But, most importantly perhaps, this decision is proof positive to Paralympians that society as a whole is starting to take their efforts more seriously. Mallory Weggemann, a Paralympic swimmer who will be well-known to punters who enjoy the online betting so widely provided for these days, has said that, for her, this decision is the USOC stepping up and saying that Paralympians are as valuable as Olympian athletes are.

It’s Been a Long Time Coming

Despite it being the third-biggest sporting event worldwide, the Paralympics have always played second-fiddle to the Olympics. The latter began in 1896, the former launched in 1960, and the Paralympics don’t get nearly as much coverage in the media, either. A case in point is the paltry 250 hours of the Paralympics that NBC hosted this year compared to the 2 400 hours of the Olympics it provided access to.

Weggemann says that it was felt that they were still in a society trying to push the Paralympic movement forward, and the difference in stipends for medals is just one aspect of that. Before this announcement, these athletes earned US$37 500 for winning Gold, US$22 500 for Silver, and US$15 000 for Bronze. Paralympians only got US$7 500, US$5 250, and US$3 750, respectively! It isn’t clear why there has been such a discrepancy for so long.

No One’s In It for the Money

These athletes don’t actually make that much to begin with. The USOC does not get any kind of funding from the federal government, unlike the national committees in other countries. It makes use of private donations to the Team USA Fund to be able to afford things like coaches, training centers, nutrition services, and strength and conditioning programmes.

While sponsorships are able to provide a certain amount of cash, the majority of athletes don’t see very much of this, and the pay they end up taking home is really small. As the Washington Post has noted, there is no great data on an average of what these athletes earn, but a recent study found that the top track and field stars in the country make an average of roughly US$16 500.