The Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) will be parading a star-studded squad when it shoots for glory in the 31st Southeast Asian Games.
Kristina Knott, Christine Hallasgo, and EJ Obiena will be at the helm when the federation campaigns in 39 out of 46 events in the athletics competition of the biennial meet set from May 12 to 23 in Hanoi.
A Tokyo Olympian and SEA Games record holder in the women’s 200-meter run, Knott is coming out of her season’s best time of 7.39 seconds in the women’s 60-meter event of the World Athletics Indoor Championship in Serbia last March.
Hallasgo, a late addition to the national squad in 2019, led a 1-2 finish with 2017 SEA Games gold medalist Mary Joy Tabal in the previous biennial meet in Clark.
She validated that triumph with another impressive performance as she emerged victorious in the MILO National Championship over reigning champion Tabal a few weeks later.
Obiena will also draw attention as he was formally included in the 49-man national squad after the successful completion of his mediation with the federation on March 30.
In a gesture of goodwill – and after Obiena apologized to the board of trustees, president Dr. Philip Ella Juico, and all the athletes and coaches for certain actions and statements he made – the federation agreed to endorse him to various international competitions on a case-by-case basis subject to federation’s rules and regulations.
Juico, as authorized by the Patafa board, formally transmitted their new entry by name list that includes Obiena and 4×100-meter relay member Kurt Baril to the Philippine Olympic Committee on April 8 – a few days after the completion of the historic mediation brokered by Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman William “Butch” Ramirez with the help of the Office of the Solicitor General and the Philippine Dispute Resolution Center, Inc.
Juico said their endorsement of Obiena to the SEA Games reflects “our unflinching commitment to the autonomy of national sports associations like Patafa and our exclusive prerogative of selecting members of the national team as guaranteed by Philippine laws and our international federation, the World Athletics.”
Juico added that the process PATAFA went through with the PSC shows its commitment to the rule of law, transparency, honesty, integrity, and truth-telling. It also asserted the federation’s exclusive authority to name members of its national team.
Aside from Knott, Hallasgo, and Obiena, other stars like Eric Cray, Aries Toledo, Janry Ubas, Melvin Calanoc, Clinton Bautista, Natalie Uy, William Morrison, and Sarah Dequinan will all be returning to defend their respective SEA Games titles.
Gonzaga University standouts Said and Yacine Guermali will also be making their SEA Games debut, boosting the federation’s chances of surpassing its previous finish of 11 gold, eight silver, and eight bronze medals in the 2019 edition of the SEA Games in Clark.
The athletics squad also established four new Philippine and SEA Games records on its way to capturing 27 medals.
As one veteran athlete and coach jointly pointed out: Given the proper opportunity and training and competition environment, we can match and even surpass the performance of others. There are many competent athletes here who comply with the rules of the PATAFA.