The nation’s 13 Paralympic medallists were given a financial boost on Tuesday after returning home from the Rio Games.
The squad were welcomed by hundreds of fans, family and friends who packed half the arrivals hall at OR Tambo International. Ahead of the 11-day showpiece, which ended on Sunday, sports minister Fikile Mbalula had announced the athletes would receive the same bonuses as the country’s Olympic stars, with R400 000 on offer for gold, R200 000 for silver and R80 000 for bronze.
Having boosted the cash bonuses given to the Olympic athletes on their return with 10 medals last month, Mbalula confirmed there would also be an additional cash injection from government after 17 podium places were achieved by the Paralympic squad.
“For a gold medal, you will get an extra R100 000, and those who broke a world record will get R150 000,” Mbalula told the Paralympians, congratulating them on their performance. “That is an extra bonus for doing so well for South Africa.” Silver and bronze medallists would also receive additional bonuses, though their extra R30 000 cheques were not as much as the R70 000 and R50 000 given to Olympic silver and bronze medallists.
Coaches of athletes would get R100 000 for a gold medal, R50 000 for silver and R20 000 for bronze. Sprinter Charl du Toit, one of four double medallists in the team, admitted he was overwhelmed by the reception at the airport.
“I was quite emotional seeing all the support,” said Du Toit, who won 100m and 400m gold in the T37 class. “I love this wonderful country and I’m so thankful that people came out and showed their support today. It makes me proud to be South African.”
The only athlete in the team who broke a world record, after clocking 11.42 in the 100m heats, Du Toit was set to receive over R1 million in bonus payouts. He insisted, however, that the two gold medals around his neck meant more to him than a lucrative financial boost, thanking all the people who had helped carry him to the top of the podium.
“It’s not about the money. This is about hard work coming together,” he said. “I wish I could take these medals, and break them into small little pieces and give them to all the people who contributed to my career.”
The SA team finished 22nd in the medals table at the Rio Games with seven gold, six silver and four bronze.