EJ Obiena wins gold again, but Team PH status still unclear
Things were heating up in cool Baguio City as the battle for formal Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) slots began on Tuesday. Halfway around the world, in even chillier Poland, an athletics star caught in the midst of a falling out with his mother federation showed why he should be considered for one of those SEA Games spots.
Ernest John Obiena won his second gold medal in the young pole vault season, bolstering his credentials as the best Asian competitor in his sport after ruling the 2022 Orlen Copernicus Cup by matching his season best at Arena Toruń.
In Baguio, John Albert Mantua sealed a Games stint in shot put with a personal- and season-best heave, even as Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) president Philip Ella Juico is hoping members of the national pool continue submitting improved performances during the ongoing trials.
“We are hoping the athletes continue to get better,” Juico told the Inquirer on Tuesday. “It’s hard for them to train properly because we haven’t really been able to travel and compete abroad. But we are moving on from everything that has held us back, whether it’s the pandemic or other issues.”
One of those issues includes Obiena, who was recently left off the initial SEA Games roster by the Patafa, putting in major peril his title defense in the regional meet.
“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,’’ Juico recently told the Philippine Sportswriters’ Association forum. “Let’s see what works.’’
But on Tuesday, Juico said the door was open for anyone to make the team, even if they don’t participate in any of the Patafa trials because they are abroad.
“All [Obiena] needs to do is indicate his willingness to join and then submit to us his records of his competition performances,” Juico added.
On Tuesday, he offered a few words for Obiena’s latest feat.
“Congratulations to him and the other participants,” Juico said.
The Inquirer again left a message with Obiena’s team but hasn’t received a reply at press time.
The Tokyo Olympian and Asian record holder cleared 5.81 meters to take the title, tying his best jump of the year he set in his gold medal campaign in the Orlen Cup in Lodz, Poland.
Belgium’s Ben Broeders took the silver with a 5.71m jump while Brazil’s Thiago Braz, the 2016 Rio Olympics champion, settled for the bronze, also at 5.71m, losing by countback.
Mantua surpassed the SEA Games qualifying medal standard by throwing to a distance of 17.02 meters.
Mantua’s performance was just a centimeter off the silver medal mark of the 2019 SEA Games.
The General Santos native thus booked his ticket to Hanoi.
Obiena, meanwhile, is scheduled to undergo mediation as the Philippine Sports Commission looks to mend the rift between him and the Patafa.
Obiena easily went over 5.41m in his first run in Poland but struggled at 5.61m, needing three attempts to clear the height.
He then breezed through 5.71m before his title-winning clearance at 5.81m.
Also in Baguio, Janry Ubas leads all competitors in decathlon after three events with 2,390 points followed closely by Aries Toledo with 2,316 points. Two more events are to be contested at press time.
In women’s heptathlon, Sarah Dequinan won the shot put event with a distance of 10.89 m.
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