Barring any unforeseen circumstances, EJ Obiena will finally assume flag-bearing duties for Team Philippines when the 31st Southeast Asian Games opens on Thursday in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Obiena, Asia's top pole vaulter, was supposed to carry the Philippine flag during the opening ceremonies of the Tokyo Olympics last year but had to surrender the role over scheduling conflicts.
But Obiena is already in Hanoi, having arrived Wednesday from Formia, Italy.
He was nominated to be the flag-bearer of Team Philippines along with Olympic champion Hidilyn Diaz, but the weightlifting superstar gladly gave the role to the 26-year-old Obiena.
"It's a bigger honor kasi because Ate Hidi (Diaz) said it should be me," said Obiena.
Flag-bearing duties are reserved for the best athlete/s of a country and Obiena’s appointment in the SEA Games is a validation of his vast accomplishments in the sport as a world-class athlete.
Obiena is aiming for no less than a gold medal in the pole vault, where he is the overwhelming favorite and the defending champion. He currently holds the Asian record of 5.93-meters, set during the International Golden Roof Challenge in Innsbruck, Austria on September 12, 2021.