EJ Obiena named PH flag bearer at SEA Games
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 17) – Filipino pole vault sensation and Asian record holder Ernest John “EJ” Obiena will wear the colors of the Philippines in the traditional Parade of Nations at the upcoming 31st Southeast Asian Games Opening Ceremony (SEA) on May 12 in Hanoi, Vietnam, the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) announced on Sunday.
POC President Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino says Obiena and Tokyo Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz could hold the flag together during the opening day rite, but the SEA Games only allow only one flag bearer for each country.
“We nominated EJ and Hidilyn, but it was declined,” he said in a statement. “Like Hidilyn, EJ has all the qualities to be our standard bearer.”
Diaz voiced his support for the Tokyo Olympic pole vaulter as the flag bearer for the Filipino contingent, saying Obiena is “the story of every Filipino athlete who fights to bring back the pride and glory of the country.”
“I’m happy for him and the rest of the Philippine delegation. I will support him,” said Diaz, who is set to defend his weightlifting gold medal after the Games were postponed last year.
The task of flag bearer can be daunting, but Obiena said he was honored to be given the responsibility.
“It’s an honour. I was returning home after training here in Formia [Italy] when I got the message,” Obiena said.
Obiena, 26, set a new record in the Asian men’s category with a record jump of 5.93 meters in Innsbruck, Austria last year.
“All I can do right now is train harder and be better and smarter,” pledged Obiena, who recently settled his liquidation issues with the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA ).
READ: EJ Obiena: Liquidation of my funds cleared by PSC
‘Liquidation of my funds cleared by PSC’
“We now have the closure,” Obiena said, after the Philippine Athletic Commission cleared him of any responsibility over the winding-up issue that sparked a months-long rift between him and the track federation.
“I really want to defend my title at the SEA Games,” he added.
The 6ft 2in outfielder is among 656 athletes who will defend the country’s stranglehold on the overall championship of the Games which Vietnam is hosting for the second time since 2003.
“We’re fielding a fight team,” Tolentino said.
The opening ceremony of the SEA Games will be held at the MNy Dinh National Stadium.
The Philippines will compete in 39 sports out of the 40 the hosts had scheduled.
The Philippines team is set to fly to Vietnam in batches, with the main big due to leave on May 10, two days before the opening ceremony. The SEA Games in Hanoi will end on May 23.