By KRISTEL SATUMBAGA
Two golds and a silver did not seem enough to convince the Philippine Athletics Athletics Association (Patafa) as it excluded pole vaulting superstar EJ Obiena from the list it intends to send to 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, Vietnam in May.
The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) revealed this Tuesday after the deadline for registration by numbers at the SEAG Organizing Committee expired last Monday and Obiena was dropped from the squad which has 53 athletes and 17 officials.
As usual, POC President Bambol Tolentino fumed, saying, “I can only shake my head, this is awful. It’s a lost gold medal for the Philippines team.
“Barring serious injury, EJ can win gold even blindfolded in Hanoi. He’s not just the best in Southeast Asia, but in all of Asia.
After scoring two victories in Poland that saw him clear 5.81 meters each time, Obiena broke his national indoor record by finishing second in the Perche Elite Tour in Rouen, France late Saturday (Sunday PH time).
The 26-year-old cleared 5.91 meters to better his indoor personal best of 5.86 meters which he set at the Orlen Cup also in Poland last year.
Obiena won the gold medal at the 2019 SEAG the country hosted with a Games record of 5.45 meters – a feat he has improved on several times.
The 26-year-old also holds the national and Asian record of 5.93m.
With Obiena on the PH tea roster, he will also miss the World Indoor Championships to be held March 18-20 in Belgrade, Serbia, as the deadline for the entry of qualified athletes to World Athletics was last Monday.
Patafa reportedly wouldn’t endorse Obiena in four major competitions that also include the World Championships in Eugene, Oregon in July, saying the mediation process has yet to begin.
Patafa chief Philip Juico, however, denied rejecting Obiena’s endorsement request.
It may be recalled that Patafa and Obiena engaged in a ‘war of words’ late last year over the latter’s alleged flawed financial records.
Esports has the most athletes with 54, although all entries can still be adjusted.