Malaysian archer Hasihin Sanawi won a silver medal in the men’s individual recurve W1/W2 final – the country’s first medal at the London Paralympic Games.

Hasihin, who is paralysed from the hip down after falling while trying to fix the roof of his house in 2005, took up archery only two years ago. He stands to receive a RM200000 award under the National Sports Council’s incentive scheme.

After the London Olympics, the federal government awarded badminton player Lee Chong Wei RM500000 for his well-deserved silver medal in the Olympics men’s singles final. The Penang state government also announced a RM100000 incentive award to him for being the first Malaysian to win two Olympic silver medals.

Should Paralympians receive lower incentives than Olympians? And what about Special Olympians? What message does that send out?

Few people are aware that there is also a Special Olympics World Games, a competition for people with special needs or intellectual disabilities. The summer and winter games are each held every four years. The last two summer games were held in Shanghai in 2007 and Greece in 2011; the next summer games will be hosted by the United States in Los Angeles in 2015.

What incentives and awards are there for Malaysians who compete at these Special Olympic Games?

One advocate for the rights of people with disabilities revealed that our Special Olympics (SO) athletes are not given the same recognition, to say the least. Apparently, at the Shanghai Games, all the athletes received was a pair of track suits! During last year’s Hari Raya, the Welfare Department invited these athletes to their celebration and gave each of them a small angpow.

The Welfare Department only sponsors SO athletes from the Pusat Pemulihan Dalam Komuniti (Community-based Rehabilitation Centres) run by the federal government under the Ministry of Women, Families and Community Development. As for the other athletes, they have to look for funding for international competitions even though they are representing the country.

“For those in authority it is time recognition is given to the disabled equally if not more, like their regular peers in every pursuit,” said the advocate.

Full recognition should also be given to dedicated band of Special Olympics coaches and trainers – who are all volunteers sacrificing their time and even money to propel our special athletes to greater heights.