Filipino pole vault star Ernest John “EJ” Obiena, a silver medalist in the Wanda Diamond League finals on Sunday, will be one of two flag bearers of the Philippine delegation in the Hangzhou Asian Games.
Obiena’s new role for the national contingent in the Asiad was made known hours after he leapt 5.82 meters for the silver at the Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon on Sunday (Monday, Manila time) behind gold-medal winner Armand Duplantis.
Skateboarder Margielyn Didal will join Obiena in hoisting the Philippine banner during the opening ceremonies.
Philippine Olympic Committee president and Tagaytay City Mayor Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino confirmed this a day before a second batch of athletes and coaches leaves Tuesday for China.
“They will both carry the flag for the Philippines in the opening ceremonies should the organizers allow both a male and a female to do so,” said Tolentino during Monday’s sendoff rites at the Philippine International Convention Center’s Reception Hall.
Obiena is one of the Philippines’ brightest hopes in the Asiad.
And Tolentino hopes that with Obiena leading the charge, the country can surpass its performance in the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia, where the Philippines brought home four golds, two silvers and 15 bronze medals.
“It will be a big challenge to us. Alam ko kaya natin iyan. May paghuhugutan tayo kahit kulang ang ating elite athletes,” said Tolentino.
The golds in the Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia all came from female athletes, namely Hidilyn Diaz (weightlifting), Didal and Yuka Saso (golf).
Saso also contributed to the team gold of Lois Kaye Go and Bianca Pagdanganan.
Tolentino said the POC will add P1 million to the current incentive of P2 million from the Philippine Sports Commission.
The Philippines is sending 395 athletes seeing action in 40 sports in Hangzhou.
PSC chairman Richard Bachmann also said the agency is willing to give the allowances of all Filipino athletes in the Asiad—those supported by the PSC and the self-funded ones.
“We will allowances for both categories of athletes,” said Bachmann.
Senate Committee on Sports chairman Bong Go thanked the athletes and coaches for the sacrifices they make preparing for their participation in th Asiad.