MANILA, Philippines — EJ Obiena’s name was not included in the roster of athletes the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATFA) plans to send to the 31st SEA Games in Hanoi, Vietnam.
“I can only shake my head. This is horrible.” POC President Bambol Tolentino said in a statement.
Over the past months, Obiena and PATAFA have had a dispute over allegations that Obiena misused funds provided by the sports governing body.
Tolentino alongside other national officials had hoped that PATAFA would let go of the issue. Obiena’s recent exclusion proved otherwise.
Since Obiena is the reigning SEA Games pole vault champion, the POC chief underscored that his absence would be a huge loss to the country.
“It’s one gold medal lost for Team Philippines but the most damning. Barring serious injury, EJ will win the gold medal even blindfolded in Hanoi,” Tolentino expressed. He highlighted that Obiena is ranked no. 5 in pole vaulting worldwide.
Just last year Obiena broke the Asian record with 5.93 meters at the Golden Rooftop Challenge in Innsbruck, Austria. He also bagged a gold in the 2019 SEA Games.
Tolentino concluded his frustration by saying, “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.”