Star players

November 08, 2019

Seven top athletes who've done the nation proud in the world stage will take a great deal of the limelight when the 30th edition of the Southeast Asian Games unfolds in a riot of colors on Nov. 30 at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.

World champion gymnast Carlos Yulo has been tapped to light the cauldron while Rio Olympics weightlifting silver medallist Hidilyn Diaz and five others who have made a name in their respective sports will carry the flag during the colorful opening extravaganza which is expected to be rich in songs, dances and many more.

With Diaz in the team of flagbrearers are world champion lady boxer Nesthy Petecio, Asian pole vault titlist EJ Obiena, skateboarding wunderkind Margielyn Didal, jFil-Japanese judoka Kiyomi Watanabe and world boxing championships silver medalist Eumir Marcial.

The Philippine Olympic Committee has yet to make a formal announcement about this matter, but a high-ranking sports official who requested anonimity because he's not authorized to do so said "it's almost 99 percent and a half that those seven athletes will play big roles during the ceremonies (opening).'

These seven athletes  are the most prominent among the 1,115 bets who will carry the national colors in 56 events lined up during the 11-nation, 12-day event which the country is staging for the fourth time after earlier playing host in 1981, 1991 and 2005.

Year 2005 was worth remembering since Team Philippines emerged overall champion after falling short in 1991 when it finished second overall.

Pampered as far as financial help is concerned, almost all national teams underwent overall training and competed in tough international tournaments, something which sports officials said will yield a big dividend in the form of an overall championship.

The selection of Yulo as torchbearer didn't come as a surprise since among the seven prominent athletes,it's the small kid with a big heart from Leveriza, Manila who created the biggest news among them when he won a gold medal in the FIG Artistic Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, the first ever won by a Filipino in the sport.

The Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee (Phisgoc) is promising an opening rites like no other on Nov. 30, one which they said will leave spectators loving every moment of the ceremonies which is expected to last for two hours.

"They will get their money's worth. It will be a good opening" said the official.

Before the kick-off, the Filipino athletes will gather inside the newly-refurbished Rizal Memorial Coliseum for a get-together on Nov. 13 with no less than President Duterte coming to reiterate his call for them to win the overall championship in front of their countrymen.

Philippine Sports Commission chairman and chef de mission Butch Ramirez and Philippine Olympic Committee head Bambol Tolentino as well as other high-ranking sports and government officials and politicians are expected to drop by the grand send-off during which the athletes will also be entertained by popular singers led by 'Bamboo'.

"We usually have a send-off activity for teams participating in multisports events. However, this time, instead of just officials sending them off, we want them to feel the support of the community and the nation as well," Ramirez told People's Journal in a text message.

"That is why we termed it "Send off ng Bayan", the PSC boss added.