Pacquiao’s Olympic gold incentive money well unspent
“NO SPECIFIC amount,” Aquiles Zonio, Sen. Manny Pacquiao’s press aide said tersely by text when asked how much the billionaire boxing champ is shelling out in additional reward to Hidilyn Diaz.
The zestful Zamboangueña arrived to what a screaming Inquirer headline called a heroine’s homecoming in Manila Thursday after bagging a silver medal—the country’s first Olympic medal in 20 years—in the women’s 53 kg weightlifting contest at the Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympic Games on Sunday.
A new house and lot courtesy of 8990 Deca Homes, P5 million in tax-free government incentives and more money out of Pacquiao’s own pocket are in store for the new darling of Philippine sports.
The 25-year old Diaz was five when boxer Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco bagged the country’s last Olympic medal, also a silver, at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Pacquiao, chair of the Senate Committee on Sports, has said he will make sure Diaz gets her money under the Athletes and Coaches Benefits Incentives Law that doubled incentives for victorious Filipino Olympians. Under the law passed in 2012, a gold medal is worth P10 million, a silver P5 million and bronze P2.5 million.
According to news accounts, Velasco, now a 42-year-old sometime actor and comedian, has not received the old silver medal incentive of P2.5 million.
Pacquiao confirmed Wednesday he is coming out of retirement to fight WBO featherweight champ Jesse Vargas in Las Vegas on Nov. 5.
While gifting Diaz, the senator is also dangling P5 million to the Filipino athlete who can give the country its first ever Olympic gold medal in the 2016 Games in Rio.
Speaking through Zonio, the eight division world boxing champ said he feels for our athletes in Rio because he was “an amateur boxer” before becoming one of the most bankable fighters in history.
“I offered it (the incentive) not for anything else, but to motivate athletes to strive hard. I was never offered this kind of incentive in my time [as an up and coming boxer].”
“P5 million is P5 million, that is a huge amount of money,” the senator said. “Is there anybody else in a private capacity making such an offer to any of our national athletes?” the Pacman rhetorically asks.
Pacquiao also offered Olympic gold medal incentive four years ago to the 11 athletes, including Diaz, who competed in the London Games.“There is nothing wrong about making this offer again. My intention was to challenge our athletes to play hard. I am an athlete myself and every time I give my very best. They must endure and conquer pain concomitant to the training. With a higher level of discipline and strong faith in God, an athlete can be a champion,” according to the Pacman.
After Diaz’s sensational silver-medal finish, seven of our Rio athletes have flamed out of competition, including the highly-trained Roger Ladon and Charly Suarez, who figured dismally in boxing.
Still to see action are long jumper Marestella Torres-Sunang, hurdler Eric Cray, marathoner Mary Joy Tabal and taekwondo jin Kirstie Elaine Alora. Miguel Tabuena is now in the thick of the golf competition.
Our remaining Rio campaigners need a miracle to win gold in the face of formidable competition, likely leaving Pacquiao’s Olympic gold medal incentive money well unspent yet again.
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