Hong Kong government to offer HK$20 million Asian Games bonanza to gold-winning athletes

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Hong Kong athletes can share a HK$20 million jackpot at the Asian Games this summer thanks to cash incentives being doubled.

The government will soon announce details of the incentive awards scheme for the Jakarta Games and it is believed it has secured a blue chip company to double the monetary reward for medallists.

Four years ago, Hong Kong returned with six gold, 12 silver and 25 bronze medals from Incheon, South Korea, with medal-winning athletes pocketing HK$9.5 million.

At the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, the haul totalled HK$10.3 million, thanks to eight gold, 15 silver and 17 bronze.

“We know the government is working on something and if they can get a sponsor to double the figure, it will definitely be great news,” said an official who wished to remain anonymous.

“An Olympic medal may be a bridge too far for many of our athletes but many of them do have a realistic chance of clinching Asian Games medals. It is always a target for Hong Kong’s athletes.”

Under the Jockey Club incentive awards scheme run by the Sports Institute, an individual gold medal at the Asian Games is worth HK$400,000. A team gold is worth HK$800,000.

The commercial sponsor would provide a matching grant on a dollar-for-dollar basis, it is understood. The rewards for silver (HK$200,000) and bronze (HK$100,000) will also be doubled, along with team silver ($400,000) and bronze (HK$200,000).

Hong Kong is expecting to send more than 600 athletes to Jakarta, the biggest squad to any major games following the inclusion of many team sports such as men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball and dragon boating.

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The Olympic Committee will announce the official delegation list closer to the Games, starting on August 15, but many sports are already preparing their squads with some setting sights on gold medals.

Cycling, windsurfing, squash and wushu are the few that carry Hong Kong’s gold medal hopes, especially in track cycling after former Olympic bronze medallist Sarah Lee Wai-sze committed to the Asiad early this year.

Lee, 31, won her first gold medal at the 2010 Guangzhou Games in the women’s 500-metre time trial on the track. She doubled that tally in Incheon, winning the sprint and keirin, the event she came third in at the 2012 London Olympics.

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Women’s squash is a potential gold mine for Hong Kong in Jakarta with Malaysia’s single most successful Asian Games athlete, Nicol David (five gold medals), struggling to recapture her glory days.

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