EJ Obiena to be PH's flag-bearer in SEA Games opening

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 17 2022 02:55 PM

Philippine's Ernest John Obiena reacts during the Pole Vault Men competition of the ISTAF INDOOR (Internationales Stadionfest) international athletics meeting on February 5, 2021 in Berlin. File photo. Tobias Schwarz, AFP.
Philippine's Ernest John Obiena reacts during the Pole Vault Men competition of the ISTAF INDOOR (Internationales Stadionfest) international athletics meeting on February 5, 2021 in Berlin. File photo. Tobias Schwarz, AFP.

MANILA, Philippines -- Filipino pole vaulter EJ Obiena will be carrying the Philippine flag during the traditional parade of nations when the 31st Southeast Asian Games open on May 12 at the MNy Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The SEA Games only allows for one athlete to carry the flag; otherwise, Obiena will be joined by Olympic champion Hidilyn Diaz.

But Diaz is in full support of Obiena, saying that her fellow Tokyo Olympian 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, who like Obiena will be defending her gold medal in the much-delayed Hanoi SEA Games. "I'm happy for him and the rest of the Philippine delegation. I will support him."

"There could only be one flag bearer for each country. We nominated Hidilyn and EJ, but it was turned down," Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Rep. Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino explained.

"Like Hidilyn, EJ has all the qualifications to be our flag bearer," he added.

Obiena is the odds on favorite to win the gold medal again in pole vault. In 2019, he topped the podium and set a new SEA Games record of 5.45-meters. He has only improved since then, setting a new Asian men's record of 5.93-m in Innsbruck, Austria, last year.

"It's an honor," said Obiena. "I was heading home after training here in Formia [Italy] when I received the message."

"All I can do for now is to train harder and be better, and smarter," he added. "I really want to defend my SEA Games title."

The 6-foot-2 pole vaulter is one of 656 athletes who will be defending the country's grip of the overall championship in the Games that Vietnam is hosting for only the second time since 2003.

The hosts programmed 40 sports—the Philippines is competing in 39 of them—which they intend to dominate. But Tolentino is undaunted.

"We are fielding a fighting team," Tolentino said.

Team Philippines will fly to Vietnam in batches with the main bulk set to leave on May 10, two days before the opening ceremony. The Games end on May 23.

RELATED VIDEO

Watch more News on iWantTFC