EJ Obiena—a top-ranked pole vaulter—won’t take part in the upcoming 2022 World Indoor Athletics Championships despite being qualified for the competition as he failed to get an endorsement from the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association.
He revealed the news in a lengthy post on Saturday, Mar. 12, pointing out his great love for the country. “Despite the adversities, and despite the attractive offers from other nations, I have refused to abandon my country. I believe in my country and I believe my fellow countrymen also love our country. And hence would put the country first also,” he wrote on Facebook.
“With my recent results I have qualified for the World Indoor Championships. I am currently ranked 5th and holding the 4th highest jump of the season,” he continued, noting that he is “in prime physical and mental condition.”
“I am ready to be the first Philippine HOME-GROWN athlete to compete in the Worlds, and I am ready to compete and bring home a medal. Now is my time; NO, now is our time!” declared Obiena.
“But sadly, we will never know.”
For the Filipino Olympian, his “non-endorsement” for the World Indoors—slated for Mar. 18 in Belgrade, Serbia—was a loss for the Philippines, which “has not been put first by all.”
“If the country was ever put first, I should be headed to Belgrade now. But I am not. I will watch it on TV like millions of others. I will see other nations take the medal that the Philippines should be winning,” he said.
“I shed a tear now with a heavy heart, but not just for myself. I shed a tear for my country. We had a chance to show the world our greatness. And we lost it,” he added.
The decision makes him the only top-ranked vaulter who won’t be taking part in the competition. PATAFA also turned down his endorsement request for other upcoming major tilts, including the Southeast Asian Games in May, World Championships in July, and the Asian Games in September.
The Philippine Olympic Committee, however, later moved to include the 26-year-old in the SEA Games roster, which consists of 654 athletes. “EJ’s name must be there,” said POC president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino.
This comes amid his issue with the PATAFA, which ordered him to give back 85,000 euros (around P4.8 million) in November due to his alleged falsification of documents on his coach Vitaly Petrov’s salaries. Obiena and Petrov have consistently denied the accusation.
According to the Philippine News Agency, the issue “has reached the Court of Arbitration for Sport after PATAFA president Philip Ella Juico filed a complaint against the Olympian and the POC last Feb. 11.”
Obiena is currently no. 5 in the men’s pole vault world rankings, next to Armand Duplantis, Christopher Nilsen, Sam Kendricks, and KC Lightfoot.