Gilas player will be Asian Games flag-bearer

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A member of the Gilas Pilipinas five will be the flag-bearer of the national delegation during the opening ceremony of the 17th Asian Games in South Korea from Sept. 19 to Oct. 4.

Philippine chef de mission Richie Garcia said Tuesday that anyone from the team that is also expected to vie for the gold medal in the continental Games deserves the honor.

“They have earned it considering the team’s showing in the Fiba Asia championship,” said Garcia, also chair of the Philippine Sports Commission.

By placing second in last year’s Fiba Asia Championship in Manila, the Filipinos qualified for the Fiba World Cup slated late next month in Spain.

“I’m not yet sure who among the players will be named,” said Garcia after emerging from the Asian Games task force meeting.

A source told the Inquirer that June Mar Fajardo and Japeth Aguilar have the inside track.

The other members of the 2013 Gilas five are Marc Pingris, Jason Castro, Jimmy Alapag, Gabe Norwood, Jeffrei Chan, Ranidel de Ocampo, Gary David, LA Tenorio, Larry Fonacier and naturalized player Marcus Douthit.

“It’s been quite a long time since we had a basketball player as flag-bearer,” said Garcia.

Jimmy Mariano, a 6-4 forward-center, carried the PH flag in the 1972 Munich Olympics.

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With its huge following and legitimate medal hopes, Gilas Pilipinas is bound to lead the country’s charge in the 27th Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea in September.

And for this, the country’s top sports officials are thinking of tapping any of the Gilas members to act as Philippine flag bearer for the opening parade.

“We are looking at a basketball player as our flag bearer,” said Philippine Sports Commission chairman Richie Garcia yesterday.

Garcia is also chef-de-mission of the Philippine contingent to Incheon, and he can have a say on who would play the prestigious role for the country.

“I’m not sure yet but I will ask the Philippine Olympic Committee to give me a name. Anyone of them will do,” he added.

In the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, equestrian champion Mikee Cojuangco carried the Philippine flag, and four years earlier in Doha it was bowling icon Paeng Nepomuceno who was given the honor.

Gilas is made up of superstars from the Philippine Basketball Association, and anyone among its players can fit well to the once-in-a-lifetime role.

There’s already word that Junmar Fajardo or Japeth Aguilar, both standing over six feet nine inches, are the early favorites.

Others who can fit the role are Jimmy Alapag, Jayson Castro or Mark Pingris.

“But Junmar and Japeth are the strong candidates. They look more Filipino than the others,” said a sports official yesterday.

Gilas, which finished second to Iran in the 2013 FIBA Asia Men’s Championship, will see action in the FIBA World Cup in Spain in August before proceeding to Incheon.

The country is pinning its hopes on the basketball team which is determined to win the Asian Games gold after settling for the silver in 1990 and the bronze in 1998.

The role of flag bearer is given to the athlete who can best represent the country before an international audience.

In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, it was boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao who carried the Philippine flag and way before that, at the 1972 Munich Olympics, it was basketball player Jimmy Mariano.

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