EJ Obiena and Kiyomi Watanabe will be Team Pilipinas’ flag-bearers for the forthcoming 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics.
Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Bambol Tolentino said in the virtual presser that the availability of the athletes was considered in selecting who will wave the flag, thus the decision to have the young athletes.
“We based our selection on their availability, kung sino po ang andun na dahil hindi naman tayo sabay-sabay darating doon. Second, we based it on the schedule of their games and schedule of their practices,” he said.
“With that, ang available po na flagbearers, si EJ Obiena — ang arrival po niya is 23 ng July, 12:30 p.m., at ang first match po niya e July 31 pa. For the female, nandun na po ‘yung female, si Kiyomi Watanabe.”
Tolentino, though, made it clear that the other Filipino Olympians are deserving to be standard-bearers. “All nineteen athletes are qualified and deserving to be flagbearers,” said the long-time politician.
Obiena, 25, is the first Filipino athlete to qualify for the Summer Games after clearing 5.81 meters in a tournament in Chiara, Italy.
Watanabe, on the other hand, made it just last June after being granted qualification via continental quota by the International Judo Federation.
The two will parade in the National Stadium in the July 24 opening ceremonies, together with the Philippines’ six prime team officials (PTOs) — only a limited number of persons are allowed in the parade due to the COVID-19 threat.
Obiena and Watanabe will be joined by chef de mission Nonong Araneta, president of the Philippine Football Federation; Philippine Swimming Inc. president Lani Velasco; Gymnastics Association of the Philippines chief Cynthia Carrion; Philippine Judo federation head Dave Carter; skateboarding coach David Bautista; and boxing national team coach Nolito Velasco.
“Ang in-allow lang po sa parada ay anim na PTO. PTOs are prime team officials. So kami po hindi rin pwede pumarada, athletes hindi rin pwede pumarada, except the flagbearers,” said Tolentino.
The two are among the 19 athletes looking to give the Philippines’ first-ever Olympic gold medal, together with 2016 Olympic silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz and boxers Nesthy Petecio, Eumir Marcial, Irish Magno, and Carlo Paalam.
Also expected to win medals are gymnast Caloy Yulo, skateboarder Margielyn Didal, rower Cris Nievarez, taekwondo jin Kurt Barbosa, shooter Jayson Valdez, and golfers Yuka Saso, Bianca Pagdanganan, and Juvic Pagunsan.
Then there is sprinter Kristina Knott, as well as weightlifter Elreen Ando and swimmers Luke Gebbie and Remedy Rule.