ERNEST JOHN “EJ” OBIENA was not included in the official list of athletes endorsed by the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) to the organizers of the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, Vietnam on May 12-27.
Obviously, it does not sit well with Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Rep. Abraham ‘Bambol’ Tolentino.
“It’s one gold medal lost for Team Philippines but the most damning,” said Tolentino right after receiving the copy of the ‘entry by names’ form sent by PATAFA.
“I can only shake my head, this is horrible,” said Tolentino. “Barring serious injury, EJ will win the gold medal even blindfolded in Hanoi. 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 name for the SEA Games on Monday as Vietnam set the deadline for submission of team compositions for the Games 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 added
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 March 18-20 in Belgrade because the World Athletics’s 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 September 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.