By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
Ernest John “EJ” Obiena, a multi-champion in international pole vaulting and the current men’s no. 5 ranked athlete by the World Athletics, was excluded in the list of athletes of the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) for the 2022 Southeast Asian Games.
Reports of the master list without Obiena’s name were found out when the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) assigned the respective National Sports Associations (NSA) to submit the names of the athletes that are set to fly to Hanoi, Vietnam for the SEA Games.
POC president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino was then quick to voice out his frustrations over PATAFA and president Philip Juico’s decision.
“I can only shake my head, this is horrible. 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 said.
This is already the second-straight time that PATAFA disregarded Obiena when they denied his written endorsement letter for his entry in the upcoming 2022 World Indoors championship.
Despite PATAFA’s rejection, Obiena is technically eligible to join the prestigious tournament after bagging two early gold medals in his busy 2022 playing schedule.
“Barring serious injury, EJ will win the gold medal even blind folded 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,” added Tolentino.
Obiena recently recorded a new season-high score during his France tilt – hurdling 5.91 meters, just two centimeters shy of tying his Asian record of 5.93-meters during the 2021 Golden Roof Challenge held in Austria.