MANILA, Philippines – EJ Obiena can only wonder “what if” as he expressed his disappointment after announcing that he will miss the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Serbia.
The Philippine Athletics and Track and Field Association (PATAFA) refused to endorse the Filipino pole vault star for the World Indoors, which comes off the wraps on March 18.
Obiena also failed to get the PATAFA endorsement for the Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam in May, World Athletics Championships in the United States in July, and Asian Games in China in September.
“I have not been endorsed for the worlds. Registration is now closed. I won’t be attending. I am the only top-ranked vaulter not participating,” Obiena wrote on Facebook.
Obiena qualified for the World Indoors after his gold-medal performance in the Orlen Cup in Poland in February, where he cleared a then season-best 5.81 meters.
The 26-year-old has since surpassed that mark, soaring past 5.91m to capture silver in the Perche Elite Tour in France last March 5.
He is currently ranked No. 5 in the world, just behind Sweden’s Armand Duplantis and USA’s Chris Nielsen, Sam Kendricks, and KC Lightfoot.
“I am in prime physical and mental condition. I am ready to be the first Philippine homegrown athlete to compete in the worlds and I am ready to compete and bring home a medal,” he said.
“Now is my time – no, now is our time! But sadly, we will never know.”
Shed a tear
Obiena said the Philippines “pays the price” for people who set the country aside for personal cause.
The PATAFA denied Obiena his request for endorsement, citing the non-completion of the mediation facilitated by the Philippine Sports Commission that he and the national sports association agreed to take part in.
“Country has not been put first by all. Country comes after personal considerations for some. This is more than unfortunate. The nation pays the price,” Obiena said.
“If 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 Philippines should be winning.”
Obiena added it is a missed chance for the country to stamp its mark in the international athletics scene.
“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.”