The Government’s decision to honour our Commonwealth medalists with financial rewards deserves a loud applause.
On Wednesday evening this week, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi’s Government awarded cash bonuses to recognise excellence at the Commonwealth Games.
Weightlifting gold medalists Feagaiga Stowers and Sanele Mao each received $20,000. Their hardworking coach and President of the Samoa Weightlifting Federation, Tuaopepe Jerry Wallwork, was also acknowledged with $10,000.
But there was more. Although the sports bonus policy only covers Gold medals, Prime Minister Tuilaepa was in a generous mood so that all other medalists received some cash.
That included boxer Ato Plodzicki Faoagali and two other weightlifters, Don Opeloge and Lauititi Lui who were presented $4,000 for their efforts.
All up, it was a well spent $62,000, if we may say so ourselves.
But it wasn’t just about the cash, the fact Prime Minister Tuilaepa delivered the keynote address where he congratulated the athletes, their coaches, families and everyone else involved for their efforts, was heart warming.
Who wouldn’t be proud? Who wouldn’t be inspired when you hear your country’s leader praising you immodestly? And who doesn’t want to continue doing good for their country when they are lifted up on the pedestal and acknowledged the way these athletes have been honoured?
Among the medalists is teenager Don Opeloge.
“This is a blessing for me,” he said. “Even though it is Silver medal, but this is the first in a Commonwealth Games that we get to be paid.
“In the previous years, it is mainly those who have Gold medals who are rewarded. I know this because I was in the squad and it is what I was told.”
And now that he has tasted the sweetness of success, he only wants to continue to do his best for Samoa. Opeloge’s goal now is to win a gold medal
“The motto in our weightlifting group is to be in the same spirit, to reach to the top and get a Gold medal. We are not allowed to settle for second best,” he said.
“It is a lesson to right the wrongs that I made for the upcoming competitions.
“One of the challenges I faced during the competition was the mentality that there were others who were stronger than me and I was able to win over them.
“I made a few mistakes and I was not able to achieve the goal I had in mind. It was like the battle of David and Goliath.”
The sky is certainly the limit for this young Opeloge. What’s wonderful is that he now knows that his efforts are appreciated. That feeling would have been shared by everyone who received financial rewards on Wednesday.
It wasn’t that long ago that we made the case in this column for some financial rewards for our athletes. We said that it’s the least the Government could do.
We also said that if money is a problem, there are other ways. For instance, the Government could gift a piece of freehold land somewhere to allow these athletes to enjoy and appreciate the value of their labour.
We know, from what we have been told, that our gold medal winners come from families who struggle to get by. One of them had even left her family as a result of abuse. So imagine what a piece of freehold land they can call their own could do for them?
If not, the Government could take a vehicle from the many cars that are being mercilessly abused by the public service and give it as a token of appreciation for the hard work.
Needless to say, if we want athletes to continue to push themselves and gain the best results for Samoa, we need to make them feel special about achievements like medaling at competitions like the Commonwealth Games.
Offer them top incentives to give them extra motivation. Young budding athletes will also be inspired. What’s the harm in legislating $50,000 as a prize money for a gold medal from the Commonwealth Games as an incentive? And maybe $100,000 for the Olympics?
That way, there is something there to aim for.
Today, we want to thank Prime Minister Tuilaepa, the Gambling Control Authority and the TAB for the initiative.
Folks, something surely has got to be better than nothing. It’s the thought that counts, isn’t it?
Have a wonderful weekend Samoa, God bless!