OLYMPIC silver medallist Hidilyn Diaz leads the short list of athletes being considered as the country’s flag bearer for the 30th Southeast Asian Games.
The 28-year-old weightlifter from Zamboanga, who won a silver medal in the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Games, is joined in the elite group by rising gymnast Carlos Yulo, skateboarder Margielyn Didal and golfer Yuka Saso.
Team Philippines Chef De Mission Monsour Del Rosario, tasked to appoint the Filipino flag bearer, said the four are so far the top candidates in his list, although he’s not discounting that other names may be added if other individual Filipino athletes shine in their respective fields from now until November.
“Puwera na lang kung may mag uwi ng gold medal or world champion bag mag-November,” said Del Rosario, also the secretary-general of the Philippine Taekwondo Association. “Hindi natin alam baka may lumutang pa.”
Equestriane Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski, who is also the International Olympic Committee (IOC) representative to the country, was Philippine flag bearer the last time the country hosted the SEA Games in 2005. It was in the same campaign where the Filipinos won the meet’s overall championship for the very first time.
Following her Olympic medal stint, Diaz won the gold in the women’s -53 kg weightlifting event of the 2018 Asian Games.
It was during the same Asiad in Indonesia where Didal also bagged a gold in the inaugural skateboarding event, while Saso won the women’s individual gold and then made it a double gold after powering the ladies team on top along with Bianca Pagdanganan and Lois Kaye Go.
Yulo for his part copped the bronze medal in the men’s floor event of the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Doha, Qatar, becoming the first Filipino and Southeast Asian gymnast to win a medal in the world stage.
Del Rosario also mentioned Raphael Trinidad as another possible candidate. The 17-year-old Cebu native gave the country its first ever medal finish in the IWWF World Wakeboard Championships by claiming the silver in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The country had lady athletes carry the flag in the past two editions of the SEA Games, namely volleyball star Alyssa Valdez in 2015 (Singapore) and taekwondo Olympian Kirstie Elaine Alora in 2017 (Malaysia).