By KRISTEL SATUMBAGA
Two gold and one silver medals seemed not enough to convince the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) as it excluded pole vault superstar EJ Obiena from the list that it intends to send to the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, Vietnam this May.
The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) disclosed this Tuesday after the deadline of entry by numbers to the SEAG Organizing Committee lapsed last Monday and Obiena was left out of the squad numbering 53 athletes and 17 officials.
As usual, POC President Bambol Tolentino fumed, saying: “I can only shake my head, this is horrible. It’s one gold medal lost for Team Philippines.”
“Barring serious injury, EJ can win the gold medal even blindfolded in Hanoi. He’s not only the best in Southeast Asia, but in the whole of Asia.”
After winning twice in Poland that saw him clear 5.81 meters in both occasions, Obiena broke his national indoor record in finishing second in the Perche Elite Tour in Rouen, France late Saturday (Sunday PH time).
The 26-year-old cleared 5.91 meters to improve his personal indoor best of 5.86 meters which he set in the Orlen Cup also in Poland last year.
Obiena won the gold medal in the 2019 SEAG that the country hosted with a Games record of 5.45 meters – a feat he improved many times over.
The 26-year-old also holds the national and Asian record of 5.93m.
Obiena being out on the list in the PH tea, meant he will also miss the World Indoor Championships set March 18 to 20 in Belgrade, Serbia because the World Athletics’s deadline of registration for qualified athletes was last Monday.
Patafa has reportedly not endorsed Obiena in four major competitions that also include the World Championships in Eugene, Oregon in July, claiming the mediation process is yet to start.
Patafa chief Philip Juico, however, denied they have rejected Obiena’s request of endorsement.
It can be recalled that Patafa and Obiena engaged each other in “word war” late last year due to the latter’s alleged erroneous financial records.
Esports has the most number of athletes with 54, although all entries can still be adjusted.