MANILA, Philippines – Pole vaulter EJ Obiena said on Wednesday, February 8, that he will not participate in the Asian Indoor Athletics Championships later this week due to logistical and financial woes.
This after the 27-year-old snared gold medals in Poland and France to highlight a strong start to the 2023 season.
The top-ranked vaulter in Asia explained in an Instagram post that while he is physically and mentally capable, the two-fold problem is too big to hurdle for him to compete in the event in Kazakhstan from February 10 to 12.
“First, a pole vaulter without his poles is an ineffective pole vaulter. Despite huge efforts from everyone including [the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association] and [national athletics president Terry] Capistrano, we are simply unable to get my poles to Astana, Kazakhstan,” he said.
“None of the airlines serving Astana will bring the poles. My mentor James Lafferty even worked with Pepsi Kazakhstan to drive the poles from Almaty to Astana. That didn’t work as it’s a 17 [hour] drive,” he added.
Another reason Obiena pointed out to is a lack of payout of his allowance, which he says has stretched to over a year.
Financial woes have caused some of the members of his crew to threaten their exit from his team, as they had also not been paid with their salary, he claimed.
“Who could work free for over a year? They have families to support and bills to pay. They can’t keep working for free,” said Obiena, the world No. 3 pole vaulter.
“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.”
Financial issues have hounded Obiena since late 2021 – when he and former PATAFA chief Philip Ella Juico – had a very messy public feud due to liquidation documents.
Obiena was eventually exonerated by the Commission on Audit, and reached an agreement with PATAFA via mediation led by the Philippine Sports Commission.
When Obiena returned to the Philippines for a brief rest in mid-September 2022, he, and ex-PSC chairman Noli Eala had a handshake deal to prevent a repeat of the incident, but it seems the issues have not been resolved.
Hours after Obiena’s social media post, new PSC chairman Richard Bachmann said he “immediately communicated” with the elite athlete and “made internal actions.”
Bachmann vowed to “to speed things up to help” Obiena and PATAFA. – Rappler.com
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