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EJ Obiena to skip Asian Indoor Championships, cites 'continuing financial issues' as a reason

By Camille Santiago Published Feb 08, 2023 6:16 pm

Athlete EJ Obiena announced that he will not be joining the Asian Indoor Championships in Kazakhstan.

On Facebook, the Filipino pole vaulter shared the heartbreaking news through a lengthy post.

"I am truly heartbroken to share this news. I shall be unable to participate in the upcoming Asian Indoor Championships next week in Kazakhstan. I won’t be able to bring glory to my country," he started.

He said that he is "physically and mentally ready" to compete, but is unable to pursue the competition due to a few reasons, including transportation issues.

"A pole vaulter without his poles is an ineffective pole vaulter. Despite huge efforts from everyone including my federation (PATAFA) and Mr. Capistrano, we are simply unable to get my poles to Astana, Kazakhstan," he wrote, adding that none of the airlines flying to Astana can accommodate his request. He also said that his mentor James Lafferty offered to drive the poles from Almaty to Astana, but it was a 17-hour drive.

The Olympian added that other Asian pole vaulters have pulled out from the competition "for the same reason."

"It’s a sad state when the best vaulters in Asia are excluded from competing in the biggest indoor championships in Asia," he said.

Obiena also cited his "continuing financial issues" as a reason for his withdrawal. He revealed that his team "has not been paid now in over a year" and that some members are "threatening" to leave his team.

"I cannot blame them. Who could work free for over a year? They have families to support and bills to pay. They can’t keep working for free. I can only hope this resolves soon. I am losing a team I desperately need. Nobody wins alone. It’s always have been a team effort."

The  27-year-old athlete said his "heart is broken" and that "it’s a missed opportunity for me to fight for Gold for Philippines."

Still, he is hopeful that he can continue making his country proud.

"I look ahead to upcoming competitions and I will continue to do my best for my country. That’s the solution and that’s all I can do," Obiena ended, thanking his supporters.

In November 2021, Obiena was accussed of mishandling the funds that the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) had given him for his Ukranian coach Vitaly Petrov, which both denied.

Because of the issue, he was unable to compete in the 2022 World Indoor Championships due to a lack of endorsement from PATAFA. The organization cleared that it “did not refuse to endorse" the athlete in the competition, but had to halt the endorsement as there was an ongoing mediation process.

The Senate stepped in, warning PATAFA that they could be penalized for contempt. Obiena was later cleared by the Commission on Audit in July 2022. 

On February 4, Obiena took home the gold medal at the 2023 Orlen Copernicus Cup held in Poland. He cleared 5.77 meters, beating Sam Kendricks of the United States and Piotr Lisek of Poland.

Just days before, he claimed the bronze medal with a national indoor record of 5.19m in the Mondo Classic 2023 in Uppsala, Sweden. The competition was topped by current world recordholder Armand Duplantis of Sweden.