The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) has included Asia’s No. 1 men’s pole vaulter Ernest John “EJ” Obiena in Team Philippines’ entry by names list that will be submitted to organizers of the Vietnam 31st Southeast Asian Games.
Obiena was one of 654 athletes who will defend the country’s grip of the overall championship in the SEA Games that Vietnam is hosting from May 12 to 23.
“EJ’s name must be there,” POC President Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino said on Friday, adding efforts are being undertaken by the POC to have Obiena compete in the SEA Games where he’s guaranteed for a gold medal.
Obiena’s Asian record of 5.93 meters is way above the SEA Games standard of 5.45m he himself set during the 2019 edition that the Philippines hosted.
But Obiena’s rift with the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association has dragged on for more than two months now with the federation denying his request for endorsement to the world indoors in Belgrade, which he will miss as the deadline for entry passed last Monday, as well as the Vietnam SEA Games, world championships in Oregon in July and the Asian Games in Hangzhou in September.
“It’s both frustrating and disappointing if we don’t see EJ setting a new SEA Games record in Hanoi,” Tolentino said.
“Logic plays a major role here for the need to include him in the SEA Games list, this is sports and he’s a national sports pride.”
The POC, Tolentino said, has written the World Athletics, the sport’s world governing body headed by running legend Sebastian Coe, on Obiena’s predicament.
A similar case happened in 1985 when the POC had to intervene on former Asia track queen Lydia de Vega’s inclusion on the national team for the ASEAN Cup the country hosted at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
The late Governor Jose Sering was then the acting Patafa president in lieu of the suspended Michael Keon. De Vega refused to join the national team training at Teachers Camp in Baguio City and was chastised by her national sports association.