THE lone Cordillera Olympian may yet hoist the Philippine flag in next week’s Tokyo Olympics.
Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Bambol Tolentino said they might replace pole vaulter EJ Obiena as the country’s male flag-bearer at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics due to the latest COVID-19 protocols.
And the most likely choices would be taekwondo jin Kurt Barbosa who hails from Bangued, Abra and boxer Carlo Paalam. Judoka Kiyomi Watanabe is the country’s female flag-bearer.
Under the new protocol, flag-bearers must be in Tokyo 48 hours before the July 23 opening. The Tokyo Olympics are set to open at 8:00 p.m., Japan time.
Tolentino said Obiena is scheduled to arrive from Formia, Italy on July 23. Obiena admitted he was “disheartened” to step down from the honor as his arrival schedule is in conflict with the guidelines set by the organizing committee.
“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. I am greatly disheartened to say the least that I was withdrawn to be the flag bearer for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics due to new protocols and scheduling conflict,” wrote Obiena.
Barbosa is savoring the journey of becoming the first Filipino male taekwondo jin to play in the Olympics since Tshomlee Go in 2008 in Beijing.
He shared that while he is happy to qualify for the Olympics, the campaign does not stop in qualification and that now he needs to prove that he is one among those worthy to compete against the top players in the world.
Mr. Barbosa, who competed for National University, started doing taekwondo at an early age and is proud to have reached the standing where he is now in the sport.
“It is such an honor to represent our beloved country, we will continue bringing pride to our flag,” he wrote on a Facebook post.
Other Filipino male athletes competing in the Games are Juvic Pagunsan for golf, Carlos Yulo for gymnastics, boxer Eumir Marcial, shooter Jayson Valdez, rower Cris Nievarez and swimmer Luke Gebbie. Nievarez and Yulo are unavailable because of their playing schedules.