Obiena out of Asian Indoor

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

World No. 3 pole vaulter EJ Obiena won’t be competing in the Asian Indoor Athletics Championships in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Feb. 10-12 after all. PATAFA (Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association) secretary-general Edward Kho said yesterday no aircraft from the transit point to Astana is able to load poles and it’s also the reason why another Filipino vaulter Hocket de los Santos is sitting out.

Obiena has competitions in Europe on Feb. 8 and 12 so he would’ve had to squeeze in Asian Indoor sandwiched by two commitments. As it turned out, fitting into his schedule became academic because of the aircraft situation and Kho said it relieved Obiena from undue stress. Aside from Obiena and De los Santos, three Fil-Ams won’t be going. Kristina Knott (60-meters) and William Morrison (shot put) are training to return to peak form while Natalie Uy (pole vault) had a slight ice accident a few days ago. Only Eric Cray (60-meters) will fly in from the US. Joining from Spain is Filipino heritage athlete John Tolentino Cabang who qualified by beating Clinton Bautista’s national record of 13.78 seconds in 110-meter hurdles during the PATAFA weekly relays last November. Since Cabang isn’t a national athlete, he’s heading to Kazakhstan on his own. He’s entered in 60-meter hurdles as Asian Indoor’s straight runs are up to only that distance.

From an original list of 17 athletes, PATAFA pruned down the cast to 11, including Cabang. Vying for honors in Kazakhstan are Melvin Calano (javelin), Janry Ubas (long jump, heptathlon), Harry Diones (triple jump), Sarah Dequinan (pentathlon), Alexie Camioso (pentathlon), Edwin Giron (800-meters), Mico del Prado (400-meters), Leonard Grospe (high jump), Mariano Masano (800-meters), Cray and Cabang. Accompanying the delegation will be coaches Sean Guevarra and Dario de Rosas.

With the lineup composed mainly of homegrown recruits, Kho said it’s a test to be less dependent on Filipino heritage athletes from overseas. Last November, PATAFA dispatched 18 homegrown athletes, 12 men and six women, to the Thailand Open and the team brought home five gold, six silver and four bronze medals. Kho described the competition as “mid-range” compared to “high level” for Asian Indoor but noted 13 countries, including Korea and Chinese-Taipei, participated. National athletes from nine other Southeast Asian nations competed so it was a gauge of the opposition in the Cambodia SEA Games on May 5-17.

PATAFA president Terry Capistrano said the team of 11 athletes to Kazakhstan marks a breakthrough. The most athletes the Philippines has sent to Asian Indoor was seven in 2016. The Philippines skipped the event in 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2018. Capistrano said the athletes will be under freezing conditions and the trip to Astana will be challenging. After Asian Indoor, PATAFA will prepare for the SEA Games, Asian Games in Hangzhou on Sept. 23-Oct. 8 and Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Bangkok on Nov. 17-26.


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