EJ Obiena, Margielyn Didal to serve as flag bearers in Asian Games

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 18) — Two of the country's best athletes will carry the country's colors in the 19th Asian Games in China.

Olympians EJ Obiena and Margielyn Didal will serve as flag bearers and lead a 395-strong delegation in Hangzhou, China.

The Philippine delegation was given a rousing send-off in Pasay on Monday where national athletes were able to build their excitement and rally behind one another.

"We’re here and also politicians are here to encourage the athletes to perform well and to show them our support," said Philippine Sports Commission chairman Richard Bachmann.

"Mahalaga po 'tong send off kasi nakikilala rin namin 'yung mga makakasama rin namin na ibang athletes din sa ibang sports na team Philippines," added Vanessa Sarno, who won two gold medals in weightlifting at the Southeast Asian Games.

[Translation: The send off is important because we get to know the other athletes representing other sports who are also team Philippines.]

The Asian Games is making its much-awaited return after it was postponed last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, local sports officials are hoping the Philippines can maintain — or even surpass — the four gold medals won in Indonesia in 2018.

"For us matapatan lang 'yung [we can match the] last Asian games. Four. It’s a big achievement," said Philippine Olympic Committee president Bambol Tolentino.

'Of course, boxing let's be conservative, one. Weightlifting, one. There might be surprises in swimming, and track, and tennis, and e-sports," he added.

The country's best athletes will be competing, among them tennis ace Alex Eala, and Olympic boxing medalists Nesthy Petecio, Carlo Paalam, and Eumir Marcial.

The athletes weighed in on how the country will perform.

"Mabigat na competition sa amin kasi Olympic qualifying sa amin 'to, so kailangan talaga namin manalo," Paalam said.

[Translation: The competition will be difficult because for us this will qualify us for the Olympics. We have to win.]

"Naninibago lang kami sa weight class namin kasi lahat kami umakyat sa weight division namin," said Marcial. "Pero 'yung training 'yun talaga yung complete, 'yung training namin. Ready to fight nalang talaga."

[Translation: We are still getting used to our weight classes because we all climbed in the weight divisions. But our training is complete. We are ready to fight.]

"The opportunity to represent the PH in the Asian games which is obviously once every four years I’m just very grateful to be here," added boxer John Marvin.

Hefty cash incentives from the government and the Philippine Olympic Committee already await the medalists, with those who will win gold receiving P3 million.

The continental showcase will run from Sept. 23 to Oct. 8.