Marcial replaces Obiena as flag-bearer due to new protocols
MANILA, Philippines — Boxer Eumir Marcial will take over from pole-vaulter EJ Obiena as the country’s male flag-bearer in the Tokyo Olympics set to unwrap on July 23.
The 2019 World Championship silver medalist was picked because of his more favorable schedule than Obiena.
Marcial will enter Tokyo tomorrow from Colorado Springs in the United States where he spent the final phase of his training while Obiena will fly in on the morning of the inaugurals.
The Philippine Olympic Committee made the change in anticipation of possible problems posed by the new protocol requiring opener attendees to be at the venue eight hours earlier.
Marcial will parade with female flag-bearer Kiyomi Watanabe of judo.
“He (Marcial) has the most flexible schedule before and after the opening ceremony,” said POC president Abraham Tolentino.
“We have already informed Eumir about his task and we are very thankful to EJ for understanding. He cannot rebook his flight anymore.”
Marcial, one of the best bets to deliver the country’s first Olympic gold medal, is now in transit from his training camp in Colorado Springs in the US and is expected to land in Tokyo six days before the opening ceremony.
Obiena, on the other hand, may encounter delays on his July 23 arrival.
“Because of the protocols, EJ should be expecting delays at the airport and that would make it impossible for him to catch the opening ceremony,” said Tolentino.
Obiena was obviously heartbroken but vowed to stay the course.
“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. “I am greatly disheartened to say the least that I was withdrawn to be the flag-bearer for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics due to new protocols and scheduling conflict.
“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,” he added.
Marcial, who turned professional last year, will make his Olympic debut on July 25 in the men’s middleweight class.