EJ Obiena ‘disheartened’ after pullout as PH male flag bearer due to scheduling conflict

Published July 14, 2021, 5:14 PM

by Kristel Satumbaga-Villar

EJ Obiena is saddened that he was pulled out as the country’s male flag-bearer in the Tokyo Olympics next week due to conflict of schedule.

The 25-year-old pole vaulter shared his sentiments on his Facebook page Wednesday, a day after news broke that he will likely be replaced due to the new protocols set by the Games Organizing Committee on flag-bearers.

“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 wrote.

“I am greatly disheartened to say the least that I was withdrawn to be the flag-bearer for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.”

Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) Bambol Tolentino disclosed this development Tuesday due to the new protocol where flag-bearers must be in Tokyo 48 hours before the July 23 opening.

Obiena is scheduled to arrive from Formia, Italy on July 23 and Tolentino said his travel itinerary can no longer be changed.

The POC has yet to decide who can replace Obiena and join female flag bearer Kiyomi Watanabe of judo as they will look into the competition schedule and availability of the athletes.

The Games, originally scheduled last year, will be held at unprecedented times due to the pandemic, with numerous strict health protocols to ensure the safety of thousands of athletes, coaches, officials and volunteers involved, as well as the people of the host city.

Among those was the banning of spectators amid the state of emergency in the Japanese capital that will run throughout the Games.

Despite this development, Obiena remains focused on his campaign to bring home the country’s first elusive Olympic gold medal.

“We will still be holding our heads 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 wrote.