By KRISTEL SATUMBAGA
Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Bambol Tolentino yesterday questioned the motive of the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) for not including Olympian pole vaulter EJ Obiena in the national team pool.
Tolentino said that Obiena, who holds the national and Asian record, could easily win the gold medal at the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, Vietnam and the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China owing to his recent feats in the European indoor circuit.
“If the SEAG and even the Asian Games are held tomorrow (today), EJ will easily sweep the gold medals in both competitions. It’s crystal clear, EJ is a guaranteed gold winner in both,” said the congressman from Tagaytay.
“How many more gold medals should EJ win for him to be reinstated in the national pool? The people just can’t wait long enough for a national athletic treasure to be ignored.”
Patafa chief Philip Juico revealed Tuesday that the world No. 5 Obiena has been left off the SEAG master list that the association submitted.
Juico, however, said Obiena’s SEAG stint is still up for discussion.
“We have to discuss that with ourselves, the Patafa board, as for the new list that we submitted to the Philippine Sports Commission,” Juico said in Tuesday’s Philippine Sportswriters Association online forum.
“He’s not on the list right now, as we announced on Jan. 28, we’d have to look at his case if he wants to participate because he has said that he will ask for help from others. Let’s see what works.”
Obiena and Patafa have been at odds for the past couple of months due to allegations of misuse of government funds. Both parties agreed to mediation, but it has yet to proceed especially with Obiena busy competing in the indoor season in Europe.
Obiena has already won two gold medals at the Orlen Cup and the Orlen Copernicus Cup both held in Poland where he posted identical season-best of 5.81 meters.
He is currently the defending SEAG champion and the Games record-holder of 5.45m. His season-best is also better than the Asian Games gold-medal standard of 5.70m.