|EJ Obiena might miss the SEA Games this May. Reuters (file photo)|
MANILA--Ernest John “EJ” Obiena was not on the list of athletes the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) intends to send to the 31st Southeast Asian Games that Vietnam is hosting in May.
It’s one gold medal lost for Team Philippines but the most damning, according to Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino.
“I can only shake my head, this is horrible,” said Tolentino on Obiena’s name missing from the entry by numbers form which the Patafa and 38 other national sports associations (NSAs) taking part in Vietnam submitted to the POC.
“Barring serious injury, EJ will win the gold medal even blindfolded in Hanoi,” Tolentino said. “He’s not only the best in the SEA Games but in the whole of Asia—not to forget that he’s No. 5 in the world.”
The POC tasked NSAs to submit their entries by numbers for the SEA Games on Monday as Vietnam set the deadline for submission of team compositions for the May 12 to 23 Games is on Saturday.
“An NSA relentlessly sanctioning its No. 1 athlete—a guaranteed win and who knows a future world and Olympic champion—I just couldn’t find a logic,” Tolentino said.
Rommel Sytin, one of the country’s business leaders, signed the entry by numbers form as Patafa’s secretary-general.
Patafa has the second biggest number of entries with 53 athletes and 17 officials, second only to esports which has 54 entries.
Obiena being out on the list meant he will also miss the World Indoor Championships scheduled from March 18-20 in Belgrade because the World Athletics’ deadline of registration for qualified athletes was last Monday.
Had Obiena been endorsed by Patafa, he could have been the first full-blooded Filipino to compete in the world indoors, according to Patafa training director Renato Unso.
Obiena won the men’s pole vault gold medal at the 2019 SEA Games at the New Clark City Stadium with a leap of 5.45 meters. Less than two years after on Sept. 12, 2021, he broke the Asian record with 5.93 meters at the Golden Rooftop Challenge, in Innsbruck, Austria.
Obiena was also the only Asian to qualify at the Tokyo Olympics last year.
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