POC hits Patafa’s nonendorsement of Obiena; federation looks to finish mediation first | Inquirer Sports
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POC hits Patafa’s nonendorsement of Obiena; federation looks to finish mediation first

Philippines' Ernest John Obiena competes during the indoor men's pole vault Beijer gala event in Uppsala, Sweden, on February 9, 2022.

Philippines’ Ernest John Obiena competes during the indoor men’s pole vault Beijer gala event in Uppsala, Sweden, on February 9, 2022. (Photo by Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP)

The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) rallied behind pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena’s quest to get an endorsement from the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) that will allow him to compete in four major international competitions beginning with the World Indoor Championships in Serbia this month.

But the Patafa has made it clear that it will not sign an endorsement until after an ongoing mediation process meant to mend the rift between the world No. 5 and Asian record holder and his national federation.

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“Again, how many more gold medals or what more achievements does EJ need to get Patafa’s endorsement?” POC president Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino said in a statement to media outlets on Thursday. “He’s the best in Asia and his numbers have been rising consistently, but still he’s bound to be denied more medals for the country.”

Patafa training director Renato Unso informed Obiena of the Patafa board’s decision in a letter he signed on Monday, stating: “By authority of the Patafa Board of Trustees, please be informed that the Patafa Board of Trustees will not act on your letter … pending completion of the mediation process being conducted by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).”

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Revisiting request

The Patafa board, however, said it “recognizes the urgency” of Obiena’s request and will move to “fully cooperate with the PSC … with the intent of expediting the process” of mediation.

An Inquirer source said the Patafa board will revisit Obiena’s request once the mediation is finished. Two other sources revealed that the different parties have already started talks to iron out the relationship between the Tokyo Olympian and the federation.

The POC has said it will help get Obiena a berth in the four tournaments in the absence of the Patafa’s endorsement.

The world indoors tilt in Belgrade, Serbia, is slated March 18 to 20. In a letter to the Patafa dated Feb. 24, Obiena also sought endorsement for his participation to the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Hanoi, Vietnam, on May 12 to 23, the World Championships in Oregon, United States, on July 15 to 24 and the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, on Sept. 12 to 25.

Obiena has been keeping in shape by competing in the European indoor circuit, where he has won two gold medals in Poland, leaping 5.81 meters in both events, making him eligible for the world championships.

Frayed relationship

“My 5.81m jump in my two title wins in the Orlen Cup (Feb. 13) and the Orlen Copernicus Cup (Feb. 23) both in Poland officially made the standard required for the 2022 World Indoor Athletics Championship and 2022 World Athletics Championship,” Obiena wrote to the Patafa board. “It is also better than my 2019 SEA Games gold medal standard and the 2018 Asian Games Gold medal standard.”

The relationship between Obiena and the Patafa was frayed when the federation accused the athlete of misusing funds meant for the salary of his coach, Vitaly Petrov, and allegedly masking the fraud behind false liquidation reports.

Obiena has denied the accusations, saying his only mistake was to remit Petrov’s salary behind schedule because he had to balance his administrative work for the Patafa with his training schedule.

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