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Sports

Cagers, boxers in Olympic parade

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

There are 206 countries listed to participate in the Olympic opening parade at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on July 23 and so far, only 51 have submitted their flagbearing pairs of male and female. Another 24 nations turned in single names for flagbearing chores. The Philippines will be represented by judo’s Kiyomi Watanabe and pole vaulter EJ Obiena.

Athletics is the favorite sport among 136 designated flagbearers at presstime. Swimming is next and it’s no surprise since athletics and swimming are compulsory sports with universality tickets available for near-qualifiers. Shooting, judo, weightlifting and sailing are other popular sports. Basketball and boxing are represented by six flagbearers each.

In basketball, the flagbearers are Nikkhah Bahrami of Iran, Patty Mills of Australia, Sonja Vasic of Serbia, Rui Hachimura of Japan, Agnis Cavars of Latvia and Khulan Onolbaatar of Mongolia. The US has not named its flagbearers and fans are expecting a male or female basketball player. Bahrami, 38, is playing in his second Olympics. He made his Olympic debut in 2008 in Beijing, averaging 17.2 points in five games with the Iran squad coached by Rajko Toroman. Mills, 32, plays for the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA and will be Australia’s first indigenous flagbearer. In an Olympic tune-up game in Las Vegas the other day, Mills hit a buzzer-beating triple to lift Australia to an 87-84 win over Argentina.

Vasic, 32, is a 6-2 forward with the Serbian women’s team. She was on the squad that took the bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Hachimura, 23, is a 6-8 forward born in Japan to a Beninese father Zakari Jabil and a Japanese mother Maikiko. He plays for the Washington Wizards in the NBA. Cavars, 34, is the world’s No. 10 3x3 player and was on the Rigo Ghetto squad that beat Pasig, 21-15, in the quarterfinals of the FIBA World Tour in Doha in 2019. Khulan, 21, will play for Mongolia in the women’s 3x3 division.

Making its Olympic debut is 3x3 basketball where in the men’s division, Japan will be bannered by naturalized player Ira Brown and Poland by another naturalized player Michael Hicks. The eight competing countries in the men’s division are Serbia, Russia, Netherlands, China, Japan, Poland, Latvia and Belgium. In the women’s division, the teams are from France, Russia, China, Romania, Italy, Japan, Mongolia and the US. Japan will be led by Stephanie Mawuli, born to Ghanaian parents. Mawuli, 22, is the first player to win medals in both 5x5 (bronze) and 3x3 (silver) at the 2018 Asian Games for Japan.

The six boxing flagbearers are women’s flyweight Mary Kom of India, heavyweight Julio Castillo of Ecuador, superheavyweight Kamshybek Kunkabayev of Kazakhstan, flyweight Rodrigo Marte of the Dominican Republic, women’s middleweight Atheyne Bylon of Panama and lightweight Richarno Colin of Mauritius. Colin, 33, competed at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics while Kom, 38, is a six-time world champion and a 2012 Olympic bronze medalist. Filipina Irish Magno is in Kom’s division and Filipino Carlo Paalam is in Marte’s class. Kunkabayev, 29, is a two-time silver medalist at the AIBA World Championships and has a pro record of 3-0, with three KOs.

EJ OBIENA
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