With the many achievements he’s brought to the country, it’s not surprising that Filipino pole vaulter EJ Obiena has been chosen to carry the Philippine flag in the parade of nations for the 31st Southeast Asian Games on May 12 at Hanoi, Vietnam.

According to the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), they nominated Obiena and Tokyo Olympic Gold Medalist Hidilyn Diaz to be the flag-bearers for the prestigious sporting event, however, the SEA Games want only one to do the honor.

“There could only be one flag bearer for each country. We nominated Hidilyn and EJ, but it was turned down,” POC President Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino shared. 

“Like Hidilyn, EJ has all the qualifications to be our flag bearer,” he added. 

Diaz offered her full support to POC’s decision, saying Obiena represents the “story of every Filipino athlete who fights to bring home pride and glory to the country.”

“I’m very happy to see EJ as our flag bearer for Team Philippines. I’m happy for him and the rest of the Philippine delegation. I will support him.”

The pole vaulting champion, for his part, expressed gratitude for being given the chance to bear the Philippine flag. 

“It’s an honor. I was heading home after training here in Formia [Italy] when I received the message,” said Obiena, who set a new Asian men’s record of 5.93-m in Innsbruck, Austria last year.

The 26-year-old is eager to defend his top placement in the SEA Games.

“All I can do for now is to train harder and be better, and smarter,” he said. “I really want to defend my SEA Games title.”

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Image credit: Ivan Romano via Getty Image