GOVERNMENT has rewarded all athletes who won medals at the just-ended Supreme Council for Sport in Africa (SCSA) Zone Six Under-20 Games in Lusaka with gold medalists receiving K15 million each.
A total K1,022,500,000 has been spent on the cash rewards for the athletes.
While rewarding the athletes with cash prizes for winning 41 medals for Zambia, Government cautioned them against engaging in bad vices that come with money and also jeopardise their blossoming careers.
After days of complaining over unpaid allowances for their efforts at the SCSA Zone Six Games, Sports Minister Chishimba Kambwili yesterday surprised the athletes with the cash payments, relatively beyond their expectation.
Zambia won 12 gold medals at the games with 11 coming in individual sport categories - judo, boxing and the athletics - while the national Under-20 girls' football team added an extra gold to Team Zambia.
Each member of the football team received K15 million.
Silver medalists, who include members of the national boys' Under-17 football team, each got a cash reward of K10 million, while the athletes who minted bronze were each paid K7.5 million.
The beneficiaries for the K7.5 million included members of the Under-20 girls' basketball team.
Lawn tennis and netball were the only disciplines that failed to mint a single medal at the regional games.
"This is the first time in the history of Zambia that athletes that have gone to represent the country at an international event including Olympics have been rewarded with cash payments for the glory brought to the nation in form of medals.
"We shall award athletes that minted bronze, K7.5 million, silver medalists will get K10 million and gold medalists will receive K15 million in cash. Coaches, managers and officials, you have not been forgotten. This money is a motivation to you all winners to continue working hard and those that did not win medals to work harder so they win something next time," Kambwili said.
Zambia won 41 medals at the fifth edition of the Zone Six Games and finished overall third below Namibia and winners, South Africa.
It was Zambia's best ever finish at the regional biennial competition.
Soon after handing the money to athletes, the Sport Council of Zambia (SCZ) took custody of the money for fear of unwanted repercussions on the teenagers promising to give them back the money later (electronically).
Kambwili warned the athletes to be wise on how they spend their money because Government did not want the money handed to them to be part of their destruction, especially after they showed a lot of talent.
"You are all young and under the age of 20, some even as low as 15 years, or Grade sevens and eights, we do not want this money to be a destruction of this gallant team. Use the money wisely. We don't want stories of drunkenness. Be an example to future athletes who will come after you," he said.
SCZ board chairperson, Chifumu Banda hailed Government for agreeing to host the youth games, saying the event had finally given Zambia the much-needed infrastructure which the country could now use to develop world-class athletes.
"We would like to thank this Government for bringing us these games and the money pumped into them. We in sports administration are happy because the National Sports Development Centre, is now a sports hub and we have a world-class swimming pool and several others," he said.
He praised the athletes and sport associations for preparing their athletes well for the games.
Banda said the medals, which were the highest haul for Zambia, did not drop like 'manna from Heaven' but through hard work.