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PATAFA excludes Olympic pole vaulter Obiena from Vietnam SEA Games roster

Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Bambol Tolentino said Olympic pole vaulter EJ Obiena is not included in the list of athletes the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) plans to send to the 31st Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Hanoi, Vietnam in May.

“I can only shake my head, this is horrible,” Tolentino said in a statement.

Obiena’s name was not on the form containing entry by numbers, a docucment which the PATAFA and 38 other national sports associations participating in Vietnam submitted to the POC.

Obiena, the reigning SEA Games pole vault champion, and PATAFA have been in dispute for several months now over allegations that the athlete misused funds provided by the national athtletics governing body.

The POC chief expressed his disappointment on this latest development, stressing the country will miss a great chance to nab a gold in the biennial sports meet.

“It’s one gold medal lost for Team Philippines but the most damning. Barring serious injury, EJ will win the gold medal even blind folded in Hanoi,” Tolentino added.

“He’s not only the best in the SEA Games, but in the whole of Asia — not to forget that he’s No. 5 in the world,” he noted.

PATAFA has the second biggest number of entries with 53 athletes and 17 officials, second only to esports which has 54 entries.

Obiena off the list means he will also miss the World Indoor Championships slated on March 18 to 20 in Belgrade because the deadline of registration set by the World Athletics for qualified athletes was last Monday.

According to PATAFA training director Renato Unso, had Obiena been endorsed by PATAFA, the 26-year-old could have been the first full-blooded Filipino to compete in the World Indoor Championships.

Obiena won the gold in the men’s pole vault at the 2019 SEA Games at the New Clark City Stadium after clearing 5.45 meters. Last year, he broke the Asian record with 5.93 meters at the Golden Rooftop Challenge in Innsbruck, Austria.

Obiena recently broke the Philippine indoor pole vault record after clearing 5.91 meters to win silver in the Perche Elite Tour in Rouen, France.

He was also the only Asian pole vaulter to qualify at the Tokyo Olympics last year.

The POC tasked national sports associations (NSAs) to submit their entries by numbers for the SEA Games lat March 7, as Vietnam set a Saturday, March 12 deadline for submission of team compositions for the Games happening from May 12 to 23.

The NSA headed by Philip Ella Juico has the second biggest number of entries with 53 athletes and 17 officials, second only to esports which has 54 entries.


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