MANILA, Philippines – Initially in jeopardy of missing the Southeast Asian Games, pole vault star EJ Obiena will serve as Team Philippines’ flag bearer in the regional showpiece in Hanoi, Vietnam kicking off on May 12.
Obiena, who is expected to defend the SEA Games gold medal he won more than two years ago with a 5.45 meters clearance, will carry the flag in the opening ceremony to be staged at the My Dinh National Stadium.
“It is an honor,” said the Asian record holder.
“All I can do for now is to train harder and be better and smarter,” Obiena added. “I really want to defend my SEA Games title.”
Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino bared they nominated both Obiena and weightlifting star Hidilyn Diaz to be the Philippines’ joint flag bearers.
The SEA Games, however, allow only one flag bearer for each country.
Despite this, Diaz – the Philippines’ first Olympic gold medalist – gave Obiena her seal of approval, saying the pole vaulter is the “story of every Filipino athlete who fights to bring home pride and glory to the country.”
“I’m very happy to see EJ as our flag bearer for Team Philippines,” said Diaz. “I’m happy for him and the rest of the Philippine delegation. I will support him.”
Obiena and Diaz are part of the 656 Filipino athletes who will see action in Vietnam as the Philippines aims to defend its overall championship.
The country will take part in 39 of the 40 sports Hanoi will host in the biennial meet that will run until May 23. – Rappler.com