Boxer Eumir Marcial will sub for Ernest John Obiena as the country’s male flag-bearer for the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony, a task the country’s top pole vaulter had been looking forward to.
Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Rep. Abraham “Bambol’’ Tolentino said they arrived at the decision since they don’t see any conflict with Marcial’s training and competition schedule during the showpiece event’s parade of nations.
“He has the most flexible schedule before and after the opening ceremony,’’ said Tolentino.
Flagbearers should be in Tokyo at least 48 hours before the opening rites of the Olympics, prompting the POC to replace Obiena, who will arrive in the Japanese capital just a few hours before the activity.
“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 posted on social media on Wednesday.
“I am greatly disheartened to say the least that I was withdrawn to be the flag bearer for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics,” he said. “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.”
Marcial will carry the flag with judo star Kiyomi Watanabe. “We have already informed Eumir about his task and we are very thankful to EJ for understanding because he cannot rebook his flight anymore,’’ said Tolentino.
Marcial, the Southeast Asian Games middleweight champion, boarded multiple flights from his training camp in Colorado Springs in the United States on Thursday and is scheduled to arrive in Tokyo this Saturday.
“Because of protocols, EJ should be expecting delays at the airport and that would make it impossible for him to catch the opening ceremony,” said Tolentino.
Marcial is set to begin his campaign in the round of 32 on July 26. Watanabe will compete in women’s -63 kilograms of judo on July 27.
—With a report from Mark Giongco
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