US Paralympic athletes will receive equal pay for the first time at the Tokyo Olympics

Gold medalist McKenzie Coan and silver medalist Cortney Jordan at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio.
Gold medalist McKenzie Coan (left) and silver medalist Cortney Jordan of the United States celebrate on the podium at the medal ceremony for the women’s 100-meter freestyle at the 2016 Paralympic Games. Junya Nishigawa – PARAPHOTO/Getty Images
  • For the first time, US Paralympians will win as much per medal as Olympians.
  • The United States Olympic Committee made the change after the 2018 Winter Olympics.
  • US Paralympic athletes used to get $US7,500 ($AU10,198) for every gold medal won, while Olympians got $US37,500 ($AU50,991).
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For the first time in history, US Paralympians will receive the same prize money per medal as Olympians.

Previously, US Paralympic athletes won $US7,500 ($AU10,198) for every gold medal, $US5,250 ($AU7,139) for silver, and $US3,750 ($AU5,099) for bronze, the New York Times reported. Meanwhile, Olympians won $US37,500 ($AU50,991) for gold medals, $US22,500 ($AU30,594) for silver, and $US15,000 ($AU20,396) for bronze.

The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) adjusted the prize money for Paralympic athletes to equal that of Olympians – as much as a 400% increase – shortly after the 2018 Winter Olympics. The committee retroactively paid 2018 Paralympians the new higher amounts, but the 2021 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo mark the first time they will be paid equally from the start.

“Paralympians are an integral part of our athlete community and we need to ensure we’re appropriately rewarding their accomplishments,” USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland said in the 2018 statement announcing the change. “Our financial investment in US 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.”

Russian-American wheelchair racer Tatyana McFadden, who has 17 Paralympic medals, including seven gold, told The Lily in a recent interview that the increase in prize money makes her feel “valued.”

It “makes me feel like we’re just like any other athlete,” she said. “Just like any Olympian.”

Disability pay gaps exist beyond the Olympics. In 2019, the US Census Bureau found that workers with disabilities earned 87 cents ($1.18) for every dollar earned by those without disabilities. It is also legal to pay workers with disabilities less than minimum wage under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The Paralympic Games events start August 24 and end September 5.