POC on exclusion of Obiena from SEA Games team: One gold medal lost
Cebu City, Philippines—The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) says the absence of Ernest John “EJ” Obiena from the list of athletes the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) intends to send to the 31st Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) that Vietnam is hosting in May is one gold medal lost for the Philippines.
“I can only shake my head, this is horrible,” said Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino on Obiena’s name missing from the entry by numbers form which the Patafa and 38 other national sports associations (NSAs) taking part in Vietnam submitted to the POC.
“Barring serious injury, EJ will win the gold medal even blind folded in Hanoi,” Tolentino said in a press release sent to the media on Tuesday, March 8, 2022. “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 numbers for the SEA Games on Monday, March 7, as Vietnam set the deadline for submission of team compositions for the May 12 to 23 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 said.
Rommel Sytin, one of the country’s business leaders, signed the entry by numbers form as Patafa’s secretary general.
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 to 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 6.45 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.
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