Obiena not giving up Philippine citizenship

Joey Villar - The Philippine Star
Obiena not giving up Philippine citizenship
EJ Obiena
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Embattled Olympian pole-vaulter EJ Obiena isn’t following the lead of Grandmaster Wesley So and golf star Yuka Saso, and would remain a Filipino.

The world No. 5 stressed he will not be changing citizenship although facing allegations of falsifying 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 on his social media account yesterday. “I have always believed that loyalty is a core value, something to aspire to, to applaud.”

Obiena was reacting to statements made by his spokesperson Jim Michael Lafferty that he has offers from other countries to compete under their flag in exchange for lucrative packages.

“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 opted to become a Japanese when she turns 22.

And Obiena vows to stay strong.

“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 the Philippines and show the world what we can do. I want to win for us,” he said.

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