GRATEFUL, pleasantly surprised, hopeful it can be done again.
These were the reactions of athletes yesterday after they received their cash incentives for the first time from the Philippine Olympic Committee in simple rites at the Conrad Hotel in Pasay City.
Awarding the incentives to the 149 gold medalists were POC president Bambol Tolentino and Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano, the chairman of the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee; and POC board member and gymnastics chief Cynthia Carrion.
Only the gold medalists received their bonuses, with the silver and bronze medalists getting their share tomorrow and Friday, respectively, at the POC office inside the Philsports Complex in Pasig.
“We are really grateful for this recognition. Maraming salamat POC,” noted 2018 Asian Games gold medalist Margielyn Arda Didal, who bagged two gold medals in the skateboarding event and was awarded a total of P400,000.
“May pang-noche buena na kami,” quipped the petite and perky Cebuana, who will resume her Olympic qualifying bid after the Christmas holidays.
“This is a milestone for us athletes because it is recognition (by the POC) of all the hard work we put in throughout the year just for the SEA Games,” said Meggie Ochoa, who won a gold medal in women’s 59-kilogram division in jiujitsu in her SEA Games debut.
“We’re just hoping that this can be repeated and our sport will be back in the next SEA Games (in Vietnam),” she added.
The incentive meant so much for veteran fencer Harlene Raquin, who bagged her first gold in women’s team epee after 16 years of competing in the regional sports showcase.
“Malaking bagay po ito sa akin kasi talagan huling SEA Games ko na po ito. Maraming salamat at naka-gold din,” said Raquin, 36.
Just as delighted by the POC bonus was Fil-German mixed martial arts exponent Mark Striegl, who captured a gold medal in the grappling sport of sambo.
“Winning the gold in my first SEA Games was memorable enough,” Striegl said, “and so to be rewarded for my efforts makes it even more special.”
Tolentino thanked the private sponsors for making the awarding of bonuses to the medalists possible, among them businessman and Presidential Adviser for Sports Dennis Uy. He also cited the MVP Sports Foundation, San Miguel and the Philippine Basketball Association for their support.
“Salamat at may naniniwala sa aming pamuno. Hopefully, we can do this again for our medalists in the next SEA Games,” the POC chief said.
“Napatunayan ng nakaraang SEA games na kapag mayroong wastong pamamalakad at pamumuno, sapat na suporta ng gobyerno at pribadong sektor, kaya nating maging No. 1,” he pointed out.
Tolentino will join the medalists during their courtesy call at Malacanang this afternoon with President Duterte, who will hand out the bonuses coming from the government.