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SportCheck: Earning big bucks!

Proof that Malaysian athletes can enjoy a fantastic livelihood from sport

LEE Chong Wei and Nicol David can add another tag to the numerous honours they have already won -- that of millionaires.

Both enjoyed bumper seasons in 2008 and if 2009 is as successful as last year was, Chong Wei and Nicol will be living proof that Malaysian athletes can enjoy a fantastic livelihood from sport.

Their successes last year brought numerous honours for both, including Penang awarding them Datukships, but the true measure of an athlete is through the titles won and shuttler Chong Wei and squash world champion Nicol won plenty of them.

But last year, thanks to the silver he won in the Beijing Olympics, belonged to Chong Wei and, deservingly, he was well rewarded as the medal came along with a RM300,000 government incentive.

That, however, was just part of what Chong Wei earned as his consistency saw him winning about RM355,000 in prize money in Super Series and international grand prix tournaments.

Having spent the whole of 2008 as either the World No 1 or 2 saw the shuttler receiving a total RM180,000 from the BA of Malaysia under its ranking bonus scheme.

It didn't stop there though as BAM also has a presidential bonus where an additional 25 per cent of the prize money won for winning an international title is awarded, which fetched Chong Wei almost RM60,000.

Despite his limited appearances on the local circuit, Chong Wei won a a total RM11,000 for clinching his seventh national title and the Johor Open crown and he was also rewarded an additional RM20,000 for winning several awards last year.

He also received a monthly allowance of RM5,000 for three months last year for qualifying for the Olympics and RM3,000 a month from September to December which is a monthly pension he will receive for the rest of his life from the government.

Chong Wei is also paid a monthly salary by the National Sports Council (NSC) and BAM, which is said to be around RM3,000 and there are also products which he endorses, which would have helped him edge past the RM1 million mark.

Nicol may not have crossed the RM1 million mark but after a dominant 2008 which saw her winning all 10 professional tournaments she competed in, her total prize money was RM442,000.

In addition to the prize money, Nicol also earned RM20,000 from winning the World Open for the third time and another RM20,000 for the biennial Asian Championship individual title.

She also split RM20,000 with four teammates for winning the Asian team title and a share of RM20,000 for helping Malaysia finish third in the Women's World Team Championship.

After performance incentives from her main sponsors CIMB, Prince and other endorsement deals, Nicol may have finished just a few ringgit short of RM1 million in total earnings.

Still, Nicol's earning from previous years were also substantial and she could have crossed the million-ringgit mark much earlier.

Giving Chong Wei and Nicol a close fight were, surprisingly, Malaysia's professional golfers -- thanks to the huge prize money that is at stake in each Asian Tour tournament.

In fact, Iain Steel was Malaysia's most successful athlete -- based on prize money -- as he raked in a cool RM755,000 despite only being ranked 22nd in the 2008 Order of Merit.

Ben Leong amassed about RM690,000 while Danny Chia took close to RM355,000. Airil Rizman, who struck more than RM400,000 in 2007, saw his earnings drop to RM170,000 but it is still a respectable amount.

Other big money earners last year were men's badminton pair Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong, who, despite an inconsistent season, would have collected about RM300,000 in prize money while women's doubles Wong Pei Tty-Chin Eei Hui enjoyed a lucrative end to 2008 as they made four Super Series finals.

It would be so easy to be envious of the athletes but we have to remember that monetary rewards only come when they are successful and that these special bunch certainly were.

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