Juico calls on ‘other people’ who vowed to help EJ Obiena compete for PH: ‘Let’s see what works’
MANILA, Philippines–For now, Ernest John Obiena won’t have the chance to defend his pole vault title in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
The Tokyo Olympian and Asian record holder was left off the SEA Games master list submitted by Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) president Philip Ella Juico to the Philippine Sports Commission, an offshoot of the rift between the star athlete and his national federation.
“EJ Obiena is not in the national training pool list, so we have to discuss that amongst ourselves in the Patafa board,’’ Juico told the Philippine Sportswriters Association forum on Tuesday.
The Inquirer sought a comment from Team Obiena, but hasn’t received a response at press time.
Obiena and Patafa are currently bogged in a controversy over delayed payments and misrepresented liquidation forms, which turned so ugly to the point that the federation threatened to file charges of funds misappropriation and documents falsification against the world No. 5.
Obiena and the Patafa have recently agreed to a mediation process, but that will have to wait as the Filipino star is currently competing in Europe, where he has already bagged one gold medal.
Juico also made mention of Obiena’s backers, who said they could get the athlete accredited for international competitions without the Patafa’s imprimatur.
“We will have to look at his case if he wants to participate [in the SEA Games]. He said he would ask for help from others and other people said they would try to work for his participation,’’ said Juico. “Let’s see what works.’’
Juico did not mention names, but the Philippine Olympic Committee had vowed to make sure that the falling out between Obiena and the Patafa would not bench the University of Santo Tomas product from international meets Team Philippines would participate in.
Patafa had dropped Obiena from its pool of national athletes following the controversy that stemmed from late payments made to coach Vitaly Petrov, but House Deputy Speaker and Patafa chair Rufus Rodriguez made it clear that the defending SEA Games gold medalist wasn’t expelled from the track and field association.
The Patafa doesn’t seem worried one bit over potentially losing one of the 11 gold medals it won during the 2019 SEA Games hosted by the country, saying its crack team of athletes is well prepared for the coming 31st edition of the biennial meet in Hanoi, Vietnam.
“Most of those who medaled with the gold and silver are still around and most of them are in shape,’’ Juico said.
Gold medalists Clinton Bautista (110m hurdles), javelin thrower Melvin Calano, decathlete Aries Toledo, heptathlete Sarah Dequinan and marathoner Christine Hallasgo, among others, have been neck deep in training for the Vietnam meet.
Also expected to again suit up for the team are gold-winning foreign-based Filipino standouts Eric Cray (400m hurdles), Kristina Knott (200m), Natalie Uy (women’s pole vault) and William Morrison (shot put).
“We also have several new athletes. I don’t know what other countries have in store for us, but we know what we have in store for them,’’ said Juico, positive that the 11 golds, eight silvers and eight bronzes in the previous SEA Games can be replicated.
Minus the foreign exposure that athletes normally go through prior to a big event, the Patafa has decided to stage its own competitions locally, mostly for the benefit of homegrown tracksters who got restrained by the ongoing pandemic.
Obiena’s current predicament doesn’t really give him much room to work his way back to a SEA Games berth.
Juico said national pool athletes would undergo a series of performance trials plus a final tryouts before the SEA Games, which will get going on May 12 to May 25.