The Tokyo Olympics mark the first Olympic Games in which Paralympic medalists will earn the same pay as their Olympic counterparts.
The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee announced the change months after the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Though 2018 Paralympic athletes who won medals received retroactive pay increases following the decision, the Tokyo Games will be the first Olympics to implement the pay parity from the get-go.
The delayed 2020 Olympics kicked off Friday and are scheduled to conclude Aug. 8 with the Paralympics slated to begin Aug. 25 and wrap up Sept. 5.
“Paralympians are an integral part of our athlete community and we need to ensure we’re appropriately rewarding their accomplishments,” USOPC Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland said in 2018 when the announcement was first made.
“Our financial investment in U.S. Paralympics and the athletes we serve is at an all-time high, but this was one area where a discrepancy existed in our funding model that we felt needed to change,” she added.
Athletes will now receive $37,500 for each gold medal earned at the Paralympics, $22,500 for silver and $15,000 for bronze, boosting compensation for some Paralympians by as much as 400%, according to the International Paralympic Committee.
Previously, Paralympic athletes had received $7,500 for every gold medal, $5,250 for a silver and $3,750 for a bronze, The New York Times reported. More than $1.2 million was disbursed to the 2018 Paralympic medalists following the committee’s decision.
“As I was reading this tears literally were streaming down my face not only because of the equal pay for @Paralympics medals to @USParalympics athlete but the value and worth of Para athletes finally viewed equal to @Olympics,” Para Nordic skiing champion Oksana Masters tweeted at the time of the 2018 decision. “This is absolutely LIFE changing @TeamUSA thank you.”
As the Tokyo Games entered its fourth day, the U.S. honored the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the landmark civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability.
While Paralympians and their supporters celebrated pay equality, many pushed back against the USOPC’s decision not to allow Becca Meyers ― a U.S. swimmer and six-time Paralympic medalist ― to bring her mother to the Tokyo Games as her personal care assistant.
Meyers, who is deaf and blind, said the committee had approved her mother to be her PCA since 2017, but due to COVID-19, there are now “limits of non-essential staff in place.” She added: “Rightfully so, but a trusted PCA is essential for me to compete.”