Mon, Oct 12, 2009 - Page 2 News List

FEATURE : Deaf athletes face new challenge after Games

By Jenny W. hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan’s Lin Wen-fang, left, fights Russian Elena Mikhailovna Lysenko in the women’s karate under-68kg category in the Taipei Deaflympics last month. Lin eventually won silver in the category.

PHOTO: CNA

The 21st Deaflympics finished just under a month ago, but for many of Taiwan’s athletes, the end of the Games meant the beginning of a new struggle.

After working hard to win medals and glory for the country, they now find themselves with a whole new challenge — winning bread for their families.

During the games, local athletes struck gold on 11 occasions, with a total of 33 medals won in singles and group events.

To boost the spirit of the Taiwanese sportsmen, the Sports Affairs Council (SAC) increased the cash prizes for all medal winners.

For gold medal winners, the prize money was raised from NT$750,000 to NT$1.8 million (US$55,000). The prize for a silver medal was increased to NT$1.08 million from NT$450,000, and a bronze earned the athlete NT$630,000, a NT$400,000 increase over the previous prize.

Those who placed fourth and fifth received NT$360,000 and NT$225,000 respectively.

The Chinese Taipei Association of Sports for the Deaf had originally estimated the nation would clinch at least 12 gold medals, but in the end, Team Taiwan won 11.

Despite the promotion of sports for the deaf, during the games the SAC Web site contained no information about the games or any congratulatory messages to the team.

In addition, for some medal winners, a cash prize was not the reward they wanted to see from the government. What they really wanted, said Lin Wen-fang (林文芳), silver medalist in the women’s karate under-68kg category, was a permanent job.

“I am a contract worker with the Taipei City Transportation Bureau under the government’s one-year work program for special needs people. But I have had to take so much time out for practice. Now my contract is about to expire, I am begging Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) to find me a permanent job,” she said at her post-game press conference.

Teammate Tai Wen-chih (戴文祺), 47, a single father of four who claimed a silver in the men’s karate under-67kg category, also begged Hau to give him a steady job.

Tai said he had to quit his job in the postal service to train for the games.

“A position that is not so time-consuming, like a school janitor, would be my ideal job,” the silver medalist said.

Gold medalist Lu Ching-feng (呂金峰) said he was not looking for a full-time job for now because he was still at school, but would like to have a part-time position to help his family.

“My parents have worked so hard all their lives and they are getting older. I want to find some work to help them out so they don’t have to be so stressed all the time,” he said.

Instead of capitalizing on her athletic prowess, Kuo Chia-mi (郭嘉秘), the gold medalist in this year’s women’s sprint orienteering and the bronze winner in the women’s discus throw in the 2001 Rome Deaflympics, is looking to become a sanitation worker for Taipei City Government. Female badminton player Chuang Yan-ting (莊廷儀) said she had to pay a huge portion of her NT$20,000 monthly salary to hire a coach for the games.

In response to the athletes’ public pleas, Taipei City spokesman Chao Hsin-ping (趙心屏) said the athletes didn’t need to worry because the city would do its best to assist them. On Sept. 17 Hau said that if contract employees like Lin performed well, they would be able to extend their contract and get time off to represent the nation at major events. The mayor also encouraged the private sector and the Council of Labor Affairs to do their best to find work for the nation’s athletes.

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