Travel restrictions in Italy and lack of venues to train in the Philippines will keep top Filipino pole vaulter Ernest John “EJ” Obiena from returning home.
Instead, the 25-year-old Obiena will remain longer in Formia, Italy to prepare for the coming Southeast Asian Games and other international meets next year.
Obiena’s mom Jeannette said this is the best solution to her son’s situation as both countries deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and its highly contagious Delta.
“There’s no assurance that he will be able to come back to Italy if he leaves. And if he chooses to return (to the Philippines), he won’t have any place to train,” said Jeannette.
EJ’s mom discussed what’s store for him after the young Obiena finished strong and in fourth place early Monday at the close of his final competition for the year, the 100th Internationales Stadionfest Athletics’ Meet.
The Italian government has listed countries in a tier system, from A to E, based on their location and epidemiological risk.
And the Philippines is in List E and does not require any authorization from the Ministry of Health.
But Italian immigration officials will only allow foreigners to come into the country because of work, health reasons, education and urgency.
On the other hand, venues that can be used to train athletes in the Philippines like the Rizal Memorial Sports, the Philsports Arena in Pasig City, and the National Teachers Camp in Baguio are not ready for use yet.
So far, Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association president Philip Ella Juico is confident that Obiena is in good hands with coach Vitaly Petrov.
Obiena recently broke the national record again when he cleared 5.93-meters at the 2021 Golden Roof Challenge in Innsbruck Austria last Saturday.