South Africa’s Tatjana Schoenmaker set the Olympic pool on fire when she not only topped the women’s 200m breast podium but she did it in a World Record-setting performance.
The 24-year-old stopped the clock in a massive 2:18.95, with her emotional in-pool celebration making many a media outlet’s top highlights reel for the entire Games. She also nabbed 100m breaststroke silver making her a two-time medal winner.
When all was said and done in Tokyo, Schoenmaker represented just one of two medalists in total at these Games hailing from South Africa, with the other being that of Bianca Buitendag in surfing.
However, their Olympic dreams of having won an Olympic medal were met with a somber reality check upon returning home, as the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) confirms they are likely unable to pay out Olympic medal bonuses.
“We still have the Paralympic Games coming up and the Commonwealth Games next year. We are in a tight financial position and the truth is we cannot afford to pay them R500,000. We do not want to create a dangerous precedence with the Paralympics around the corner.
“We do not want to be irresponsible when it comes to incentive issues. We will give them something small and hope the government helps in that regard.
“If we give R500,000 to the Olympians we have to use the same measure for the Paralympians. Imagine if they get 30 medals, we would be in serious trouble because we do not have money reserved for that. We are looking into the possibility of rewarding our two Olympic medalists, and it is not true that we will not reward them. The amount will be much smaller than in 2016.” (Sowetan Live)
At the 2016 Olympic Games, gold medal winners earned $33,000 USD, silver medalists earned $13,000 USD and bronze medalists earned $5,000 USD.
Hendricks continued, “SASCOC cannot place unrealistic expectations on its athletes when we know full well that we can’t compete with the likes of Great Britain. Great Britain receives £350 million over a four-year cycle in preparation for the Olympics. SASCOC receives R28 million over four years.” (Capetown, Etc.)
“We used to receive a lot of money from the government for funding. We are now getting R5m annually, and it affected our Operation Excellence programme. We cannot afford to pay or give our athletes the best medical treatment, send them to Europe or support their Olympic preparations. I did not set a target and told them to go and achieve to the best of their ability, and we are proud of them. They achieved given the Covid-19 pandemic challenges and lack of funding,” explained Hendricks.
We’ve documented how many nations payout Olympic medal bonuses in the form of cash, luxury gifts, and even postponement of required military service. You can see our post on this subject in more detail here.
For South Africa specifically for the Tokyo Games, the nation was due to pay out $37,000 USD for a gold medal, $19,000 USD for silver and $7,000 USD for bronze. As such, Schoenmaker was set to receive $56,000 while silver medalist Buitendag would be paid $19,000.
But both operational and monetary issues have plagued the SASCOC for some time. Whether it be these having to self-fund their own trips to elite international competitions or dismissing international staff due to sexual harassment allegations.
You can refresh yourself on just a sampling of SASCOC-related issues using these links:
- SASCOC Under Investigation for Malpractice
- U-20 Youth Games: South African Athletes Compete in Poor Conditions
- South African Water Polo Players Must Self-Fund Tokyo 2020
While the SASCOC pursues other monetary options for the 2020 Olympic Games medalists, South African business leaders are trying to take matters into their own hands.
Carel Nolte, CMO of Easy Equities and Mike Sharman, founder of Matchkit, started a crowdfunding campaign, encouraging other entities to contribute to the two athletes’ bonuses. To date, the fund has raised about $2,000 USD.
This funding issue comes at a time when newly-elected FINA President Husain al-Musalla told the AP of Africa’s podium prospects in Paris 2024, “I believe there will be a lot of athletes coming from Africa in swimming and they will reach the podium.
“When you give opportunity to everybody they perform. Africans have a lack of resources, especially for aquatic sport.” FINA plans on spending $29 million over four years ‘on a strategy to widen and deepen swimming’s talent pool’ on the continent. (AP)