The Philippines has a new male flagbearer in the Tokyo Olympics in boxer Eumir Felix Marcial.
The many-time Southeast Asian Games champion and 2019 World AIBA silver medalist will replace Ernest John EJ” Obiena as teams up with female flagbearer judoka Kiyomi Watanabe in the opening ceremonies of the Olympics on July 23 at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, Japan.
Philippine Olympic Committee president Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino said on Tuesday that it would be more convenient for Marcial to carry the country’s colors because he will be arriving in Tokyo this weekend.
“He [Marcial] has the most flexible schedule before and after the opening ceremony,” Tolentino said. “We have already informed Eumir about his task and we are very thankful to EJ for understanding. He cannot rebook his flight anymore.”
Marcial took multiple flights from his training camp in Colorado Springs in the US on Thursday and is expected to land in Tokyo on Saturday, six days before the opening ceremony.
Obiena, on the other hand, is coming in from Italy and will be in Japan just hours before the Olympic opening rites.
“Because of protocols, EJ should be expecting delays at the airport and that would make it impossible for him to catch the opening ceremony,” Tolentino said.
Marcial, who turned professional last year, will make his Olympic debut on July 25 in the men’s middleweight round-of-32.
Watanabe, who is based in Japan, will compete in women’s -63 kgs of judo on July 27.
Six Filipino officials are joining the parade of countries—chef de mission Mariano “Nonong” Araneta, Philippine Judo Federation President Dave Carter, boxing coach Nolito Velasco, skateboarding coach Daniel Velasco, Philippine Swimming Inc. president Lani Velasco and Gymnastics Association of the Philippines head Carrion-Norton.
Obiena expressed his disappointment after losing the rare opportunity of being one of two flagbearers for Team Philippines.
“I am greatly disheartened to say the least that I was withdrawn to be the flag bearer for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics,” said Obiena,
“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,” said Obiena, one of the top bets expected to deliver medals for the Philippines.
“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.