Recognition from community for athletes more important than cash rewards, says Olympic icon Lee Lai-shan

Hong Kong competitors at Rio Games won’t get any more money under incentive scheme than what was on offer for London in 2012, but windsurfing gold medallist says the dollar sign is not the only consideration

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 March, 2016, 9:32pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 March, 2016, 9:32pm

Hong Kong athletes who win Olympic medals at the Rio Games in August won’t be offered any more cash incentives than what was at stake for the last Games in London in 2012.

But Olympic windsurfing gold medallist Lee Lai-shan says a cash reward is not the most important thing for athletes who win an international honour – recognition and appreciation from the community is more valued.

The dollar sign is not always the most important consideration for athletes
Lee Lai-shan

The Hong Kong Sports Institute, in a joint venture with the Jockey Club, announced on Saturday details of the Athlete Incentive Awards Scheme for the Rio Games.

An individual gold medal winner will get HK$3 million while silver and bronze medallists will receive HK$1.5 million and HK$750,000 respectively.

For team events, the winners will get a total cash award of HK$4.2 million for gold, HK$2.1 million and HK$1.05 million for silver and bronze respectively.

The amounts are the same as what the Sports Institute offered 2012 Olympic Games medallists. Cyclist Sarah Lee Wai-sze was the only medal winner for Hong Kong at the London Games when she received HK$750,000 for claiming the bronze medal in the women’s keirin.

Lee Lai-shan, who got a cash award of HK$1 million for winning the women’s mistral windsurfing gold at the 1996 Atlanta Games, said the amount hardly reflects the hard work and effort spent by an athlete to achieve an outstanding result.

“I don’t want to compare the amounts because of inflation over these years but, in fact, the dollar sign is not always the most important consideration for athletes,” she said.

“Even HK$3 million is not a big amount and may not be sufficient to buy an apartment in Hong Kong these days.

“I would consider social recognition and appreciation from the community more important when athletes return with medals from major games.”

The sports icon is confident there will be Hong Kong medallists at the Rio Games.

“I don’t want to name any particular athlete and give him or her extra pressure but I can see some Hong Kong athletes who are capable of an accomplishment.

“The next few months will be crucial as the athletes must avoid injury and make a little breakthrough in their respective sport.”