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Sports

Obiena ready for five meets

Joaquin Henson - The Philippine Star
Obiena ready for five meets
Philippines' Ernest John Obiena competes in the men's pole vault final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on Aug. 3, 2021.
AFP / Ben Stansall

MANILA, Philippines — Asian pole vault record holder EJ Obiena is set to see action in at least five competitions this year, starting with the Init Indoor Meeting in Karlsruhe, Germany, on Jan. 28 but even as World Athletics, the international governing federation, wants him to participate, it will depend on accreditation from PATAFA and POC. Obiena has sent a budget proposal to PATAFA covering the period from September last year to the Paris Olympics in August 2024. With PATAFA focused on investigating Obiena for alleged misuse of funds, it doesn’t seem likely the budget will be approved any time soon.

Aside from the Germany conclave, Obiena said he also hopes to compete at the Asian Indoor Championships in Kazakhstan on Feb. 11-13, the World Indoor Championships in Serbia on March 18-24, the SEA Games on May 12-23, the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon, on July 15-24 and the Asian Games in Hangzhou on Sept. 10-25. It’s possible that Obiena will join other tournaments in between the five priority competitions.

Last Christmas Day, Obiena was in intense training. “I’m using training to get out of whatever it is because when I’m training for two hours, I’m at peace,” he said. “I’m working on my craft. My job is to train and compete for the Philippines. In the Tokyo Olympics, I failed miserably. I’d jumped at least 5.8 indoor and outdoor consistently. I hate the phrase ‘it is what it is.’ I shouldn’t worry about things out of my control. I think my situation with the poles could’ve been handled a little better.”

Obiena said PSC chairman Butch Ramirez has been kind and understanding. “When PSC offered to mediate, I was first to agree because I wanted this to end right away then things changed and all of a sudden, the moratorium that PSC suggested wasn’t respected,” he said. “I believe mediation shouldn’t be about deadlines. This is about peacemaking and deadlines will not resolve peacemaking. If we need an extension, then why not?”

Obiena’s adviser Jim Lafferty, a well-respected philanthropist who was district CEO for several multinational companies and is now based in Dubai, said the zeal by which PATAFA shows in trying to nail the pole vaulter is unimaginable. “They’re playing a game of changing stories,” he said. “First, they accused EJ of not paying his coach and demanded for him to pay back 85,000 Euros. When coach Vitaliy (Petrov) certified he had been paid, PATAFA accused EJ of not paying on time. But PATAFA was late in sending the money so that became a non-issue. Then, they accused EJ of not following the liquidation process. But EJ said he only did what PATAFA asked him to do. Finally, they accused EJ of not paying me back as his sponsor for advancing salaries to his coach. I came into the picture because PATAFA was sending EJ pesos and the coach had to be paid in Euros so I offered to absorb the bank charges and exchange fees. I have proof of EJ’s payments. There really is nothing to mediate because the issues have been clarified and explained. The court of public opinion has described this a horrendous situation. Why would PATAFA treat its best athlete like a criminal?”

EJ OBIENA

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