THERE are 2.8 million reasons that should make Filipino pole-vaulter EJ Obiena more motivated to snare the gold medal in the Paris Olympics this July.

It was because World Athletics, the governing body of track and field competitions in the planet, will reward the Paris Games gold winners a prize money worth $50,000, or a whopping P2.8 million.

It will mark the first time that a monetary purse will be given directly to Olympic athletes in any sports in the quadrennial games that has been traditionally known to espouse amateurism.

In all, World Athletics will hand out a total prize pool amounting to $2.4 million for the 48 men and women athletics events, which included Mr. Obiena’s discipline.

After Paris, World Athletics had also indicated it would dole out prize money on a tiered basis to all medal winners in the 2028 edition in Los Angeles, not just gold medalists.

The specific details as to the exact amount to be given away will be decided and announced later, or just before the LA event.

Some countries, including the Philippines, have given cash incentives to all Filipino Olympic medalists in the past, including weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, who received an eye-popping approximate amount of P35.5 million not to mention the house and lot, cars and other perks dangled from both government and the private sector.

But no money came directly from the Olympics before.

World Athletics said the money would come from payments from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which rakes in billions of dollars in revenue from broadcasting deals and other sponsorships.

The IOC then redistributes these earnings to international sporting federations and national Olympic committees.

But only World Athletics decided to share it to athletes as prize money.

While Mr. Obiena, the country’s lone entry in the event thus far, will be an underdog against Olympic favorite, Swedish titan Armand Duplantis, the former has beaten the latter twice before.

If Mr. Obiena did it twice, there’s a chance, albeit slim, he can replicate it. — Joey Villar