Filipino pole vaulter Ernest “EJ” Obiena expressed his disappointment after losing the rare opportunity of being one of two flagbearers for Team Philippines during the opening of the Tokyo Olympics.
“I am greatly disheartened to say the least that I was withdrawn to be the 🇵🇭 flag bearer for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics,” said Obiena, one of the top bets expected to deliver medals for the Philippines.
Obiena, along with Fil-Japanese judoka Kiyomi Watanabe, were initially chosen to do flagbearing chores during the Parade of Nationals on July 23.
But strict health protocols at the airport could delay Obiena, who is arriving at noontime on the day of opening ceremonies.
Tokyo organizers said that flagbearers are now required to be in Tokyo, Japan at least 48 hours before the opening rites.
“I proudly accepted the position to raise the flag of the country I was born and raised in, but there are things that are out of my control,” Obiena added in his post on his official social media page.
Nevertheless, Obiena said he will still perform his best and take pride in carrying the Philippine flag.
“We will still be holding our head high and reppin’ the red, blue and white with pride. Thank you for all your support through this tough time, it’s what keeps me going,” Obiena.
Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham Tolentino said they still tried to make way for Obiena and asked the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association if his flight could be rebooked for an earlier date. But it was not possible.
Being eyed for replacements are boxers Eumir Felix Marcial and Carlo Paalam, rower Cris Nievarez, taekwondo jin Kurt Barbosa, shooter Jayson Gonzales, and golfer Juvic Pagunsan.