FOR far too long, Malaysian athletes have dedicated their talent, time, sweat and tears to bring fame and glory to the nation, without external rewards for their sacrifices.

The recent announcement by Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh on the new salary package for athletes brings much joy, cheers and relief, which is long overdue, to the 393 podium athletes, comprising 307 able and 86 para athletes.

Now Malaysia’s podium athletes will reap the rewards that have long eluded them and they can join the ranks of other nations’ champions in receiving just compensation for their stellar achievements for the country.

With such rewards and added financial security, podium athletes will be inspired to strive harder in the Road to Gold Programme to achieve that elusive first Olympic gold medal for Malaysia – a prize that all Malaysians can celebrate together.

In her speech outlining the New Salary Scheme package, Yeoh announced an increase of RM700 in allowance across the board for all of them, including benefits from the Employment Provident Fund and Social Security Organisation contributions. The minimum salary for athletes in the Podium Programme will increase from RM800 to RM1,500.

Podium athletes in the Asian Games, SEA Games and Commonwealth Games will also receive an increase of RM700. Presently, gold medal-winning athletes at the Asian Games will receive RM5,200 instead of RM4,500.

The salary for the Olympic Games top three gold, silver and bronze medalists will remain the same, at RM7,500, RM7,000 and RM6,500, respectively.

Athletes and coaches, whose allowances will be reviewed soon, must give their best to ensure success.

To attract, acquire and retain expert coaches who produce champion athletes, salaries and bonus packages must be competitive with international standards.

We must be willing to invest in the best to produce the best in athletic performance. That also includes the finest quality trainers, support and rehabilitation medical personnel and sports psychologists, to develop the athletes’ mental toughness and resilience.

All relevant stakeholders must work together to maximise the athletes’ performance in all competitions such as the Olympics, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and World Championship competitions.

Malaysia boasts eight silver medals and five bronze since its Olympic debut in Melbourne in 1956. A total of nine of Malaysia’s 13 medals have come in badminton, which is seen as their best chance for the elusive gold.

No Malaysian athlete has ever won a gold medal, making Malaysia the country that has won the most Olympic medals without earning gold. It is time to change that standings this year.

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