Filipino pole vaulter Ernest John “EJ” Obiena will continue to train for his coming international competitions.
It no longer matters to him if he faces immediate removal from the national team or if he is facing a criminal case from the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association for allegedly misappropriating government funds over the last three years.
Obiena said he will let his performance in every competition he joins in as his platform to speak for him and his situation.
“My pole will be my platform. My every jump is my defiance to everything that is wrong in the sport. And an affirmation that the Filipino is tough, enduring, loyal and will stand up for what is right and true,” said Obiena in a Facebook message to his supporters.
Obiena is saddened over his removal from the national pool by the Patafa.
“I am always willing to compete for the flag and the country I love with my entire being. I have said before that the only reason I will not jump for the Philippines is if (Patafa president) Philip Juico won’t let me jump for the country. This afternoon, the Philippine Olympic Committee made a statement that I will still carry the flag of the Philippines and represent the country. I thank the POC for doing what is right for the nation as the National Olympic Committee,” said Obiena.
Obiena also said he is now leaving his legal problems to his lawyers as preparing for his coming competitions will again be the 26-year-old’s priority.
He will still be under the care of his coach Vitaliy Petrov.
With the Patafa out of the picture, Obiena will be considered as a displaced national athlete, but he may still be able to join in international meets and in the 2024 Paris Olympics if he qualifies as a refugee athlete, with the help of the POC.
Refugee athletes were introduced during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Under this program, athletes who have been displaced in their respective countries can be offered by their National Olympic Committees the opportunity to be supported throughout their training, preparation and participation in high-level competitions. Peter Atencio
“The drama brought about by this witch hunt has taken valuable time, effort and energy away from my training and preparation. I have a small window to save my season and I do not want to be distracted any further,” said Obiena.
He is scheduled to be in at least five competitions this year, with his first meet set at the Init Indoor Meeting in Karlsruhe, Germany on Jan. 28.
After that, Obiena plans to join the Asian Indoor Championships in Kazakhstan from Feb. 11 to13, the World Indoor Championships in Serbia on March 18 to 24 and the Southeast Asian Games from May 12 to 23.
Then, there’s the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon, on July 15 to 24 and the Asian Games in Hangzhou on Sept. 10 to 25.
But his participation will still depend on the world governing body of the sport, World Athletics, if it will allow him to participate with just the blessing of the POC alone.