THERE are an extra million reasons Filipino athletes should strive harder for a gold medal in the Hangzhou Asian Games that is unfurling this Saturday.

With an eye at replicating, if not surpassing, the four-gold, two-silver and 15-bronze harvest in the 2018 edition in Palembang, Indonesia, the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) added a P1-million cash bonus for the Philippine bets who will strike gold in the China meet.

“It will be a big challenge but I believe it’s achievable,” said POC President Abraham Tolentino during yesterday’s send-off of the 395-strong national team as well as the Asian Para Games-bound squad at the PICC in Pasay City.

The bonus sweetens the already big pot for Filipino athletes, who are mandated by the government to receive a P2 million incentive for a gold, P1 million for a silver and P400,000 for a bronze in the Asiad.

Senator Bong Go, who chairs the upper chamber’s committee on sports, wished the Filipino athletes the best of luck.

“This is a testament to your dedication and commitment towards greatness,” said Mr. Go.

Mr. Tolentino also named World No. 2 pole-vaulter EJ Obiena and 2018 Asian Games skateboard gold winner Margielyn Didal as the country’s flag-bearers to Hangzhou.

Philippine Sports Commission Chair Richard Bachmann and Philippine Paralympic Olympic Committee President Mike Barredo also graced the festivities.

The Asian Games is slated Sept. 23 to Oct. 8 while the Asian Para Games is scheduled Oct. 22 to 28.

Although the country will be without world champion gymnast Carlos Yulo, who has skipped Hangzhou for the World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium late this month, the country isn’t without a replete with stars.

Apart from Mr. Obiena and Ms. Didal, the squad will also have Olympic gold winner Hidilyn Diaz, Tokyo boxing medalists Nesthy Petecio, Carlo Paalam and Eumir Marcial, the star-studded Gilas Pilipinas and the World Cup heroes in the Filipinas. — Joey Villar