Not good to always reward athletes for winning?

(from left) Karim, Pandelela and Lina Soo

KUCHING: Sarawak People’s Aspiration Party (Aspirasi) is appalled by a recent statement by Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah that it was not good to always reward athletes each time they achieve something.

Its president Lina Soo said that she was stunned by Abdul Karim’s response to the national diver Pandelela Rinong’s gold-medal victory at the FINA Diving World Cup recently.

“It seems that Abdul Karim has his way of rewarding our athletes and sports champions including Pandelela, and that is to brush away accolades and requests from members of the public to recognise Pandelela’s achievement on the flimsy premise that too much reward might spoil her and deny her enjoyment of her sport,” she said yesterday.

Karim on Thursday told a press conference that “if we keep on thinking of giving rewards every time somebody gets a gold medal or achieve fame, it will not be good also because athletes normally love their sport and they are passionate about what they are doing. But the state will have its own ways of rewarding them”.

Abdul Karim also told reporters that he has received some phone calls from people asking if the state would accord Pandelela with a Datukship in recognition of her sporting achievements, similar to several other renowned national athletes. Pandelela is also a two-time Olympic medalist.

The minister said his reply was, “She’s only 28 years old, don’t spoil her. I mean, can you imagine someone in their 20s having a Datukship?”

Lina pointed out that it takes years of dedication and great sacrifices for athletes to reach the top in the international arena and be a champion.

“Hard work, pain and even tears are part of an athlete’s lonely journey to the top. While her peers and other youths are enjoying themselves in their prime, Pandelela has to spend years of her life at a pool doing endless dives.

“Pandelela’s achievement can only come with extreme determination to perfect her skills at what she does and to make her country proud at the international level.

“The achievements of world-class athletes can only come with blood, sweat and tears, unlike politicians who can become one overnight and be rewarded with fat salaries, GLC (government-linked company) positions and ministerial positions instantly,” she said.

Having said that, Soo urged the minister to disclose whatever monetary reward will or should be given to Pandelela.

“This is taxpayers’ money and taxpayers have the right to know if the compensation is commensurate and recognises Pandelela’s achievement, much like whether Abdul Karim’s compensation is commensurate with his output as a sports minister,” she said.