All’s well: Patafa reinstates EJ Obiena as national athlete
Ernest John Obiena, the third-ranked pole vaulter in the world, can proudly wear the Philippine flag in major international tournaments again.
The Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association’s (Patafa) reinstatement of the Tokyo Olympian lifted the fear of uncertainty surrounding Obiena and finally shut the door on a disturbing chapter that hounded Philippine athletics late last year.
Obiena was excluded from the national athletics team early this year following the Italy-based ace’s controversial rift with Patafa triggered by claims of unliquidated expenses and nonpayment of his Ukrainian coach, Vitaly Petrov.
The split got really ugly with the Patafa, headed by its former president Philip Ella Juico, charging its top athlete of failure to compensate Petrov before Obiena fired back pointing out that he had already settled the entire financial obligation to his coach worth 85,000 euros (over P4.8 million).
With the disagreement becoming a national issue, the country’s lawmakers likewise stepped in to defuse the tension in a Senate hearing before the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) found ways to infuse lasting peace.
Both parties finally kissed and made up in a lengthy mediation spearheaded by then PSC Chair Butch’ Ramirez, allowing Obiena to defend his Southeast Asian Games title in Vietnam.
The 26-year-old Obiena’s ranking improved following his bronze-medal performance in the World Athletics Championships last month in Eugene, Oregon.
According to Patafa Executive vice president Willie Torres, Obiena will be included in the Patafa’s master list along with five other athletes.
“We are thankful to the Patafa leadership for taking this step to solidify the strength of our national athletics team,’’ said PSC Officer in Charge and Commissioner Olivia “Bong’’ Coo.
The Patafa roster will be received by the PSC, formalizing Obiena’s re-entry into the national squad.
Majority of the Patafa board members pushed for the reinstatement of Obiena last weekend, repairing the cracks for good.
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