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Obiena vows not to switch countries despite controversy

Joey Villar - Philstar.com
Obiena vows not to switch countries despite controversy
EJ Obiena

MANILA, Philippines – Embattled Olympian pole-vaulter EJ Obiena isn’t following the lead of woodpusher Wesley So and golfer Yuka Saso and would remain a Filipino.

The World No. 5 recently stressed he will not be changing citizenship amid the controversy that befell him when the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) accused him of alleged falsififying of liquidations regarding payments to his Ukrainian coach Vitaly Petrov.

“Loyalty is a virtue,” said the 26-year-old Asian record-holder and Southeast Asian Games gold medalist in his social medial post Tuesday. “I have always believed that loyalty is a core value, something to aspire, to applaud.”

Obiena was reacting to statements made by his spokesperson Jim Michael Lafferty that the former received offers from other countries to compete under their flag in exchange for lucrative packages several days ago.

“I said no. I love my country. I am proud to compete for the flag of the Philippines. I get chills every time I hear our anthem played and to watch that flag rise high,” said Obiena. “Every time I step on the podium, I force myself not to cry.

“From my athlete’s ego, I take pride and joy to win and win even when I’m not supposed to be the victor.

“I will never abandon my nation because of money. That’s not my loyalty, at least not how I define it,” he added.

Obiena’s decision quashed fears of a nation that already lost world beaters in So, who is now an American, and the 20-year-old Saso, who has decided to become a Japanese when she turns 22.

And Obiena vows to stay strong despite the problems he is facing.

“Even now, in this current crisis, I have no desire to change nations. This is not who I am and why I do this. I want to win for Philippines and show the world what we can do. I want to win for us,” he said.

EJ OBIENA PATAFA
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