Philippine sports

Olympic hero Hidilyn Diaz calls for immediate amends to Obiena-PATAFA rift

JR Isaga
Olympic hero Hidilyn Diaz calls for immediate amends to Obiena-PATAFA rift

FILIPINO OLYMPIANS. Hidilyn Diaz throws her support behind EJ Obiena.

Aleksandra Szmigiel/Reuters (Obiena) and Edgard Garrido (Diaz)

'Sana isipin natin na ang ginagawa kasi ni EJ, for the Philippines,' says weightlifting champion Hidilyn Diaz of her fellow Olympian, embattled pole vaulter EJ Obiena

MANILA, Philippines – Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz called on star pole vaulter EJ Obiena and the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) to quickly end their highly publicized funding rift in a Senate inquiry on Monday, February 7.

Speaking in front of five senators and a big online audience led by Obiena and PATAFA president Philip Juico, the weightlifting superstar told both sides what they need to do while also admitting that she is siding with her fellow Olympian on the issue.

“Yes, there needs to be communication between NSA and EJ to resolve this. This is not a problem unique to EJ. This has been the practice of others even before,” she said in a mix of English and Filipino, referring to the controversial funding practices in national sports associations (NSAs) that sparked the Obiena-PATAFA rift.

“But thankfully, [my NSA and I] made up. We chose to communicate with each other for the better, for the sport. And there, we brought home the Olympic gold medal because we had unity. They catered to my needs as an athlete,” she continued.

Diaz then continued to explain why an elite Olympic-level athlete like Obiena needs more consideration, given the level of competitive pressure he is naturally subjected to.

Sana maresolba na, kasi alam kong mahirap para kay EJ na habang may injury siya, pinoproblema pa niya ‘yung accounting, baka may kaso pa siya pagdating dito. Mahirap ‘yun kay EJ na pag-isipan kung ano ang gagawin,” she said.

(Hopefully this gets resolved because I know it’s difficult for EJ to manage an injury, accounting, and even a possible case when he gets home. It’s difficult for EJ to plan out what he needs to do.)

Sana isipin natin na ang ginagawa kasi ni EJ, for the Philippines. Sinakripisyo niya ‘yung ilang taon na malayo sa pamilya niya para irepresenta ang Pilipinas,” she continued, as Obiena visibly got emotional and wiped away tears.

(Hopefully we realize that EJ is playing for the Philippines. He has sacrificed years away from his family just to represent the country.)

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Since December, Obiena and PATAFA have been in a public row about funding and salaries. Obiena and his camp have decried the alleged “witch hunt” done by his NSA, while PATAFA has slammed Obiena for allegedly misappropriating taxpayer money.

The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) has been called to mediate between the two warring sides, and on Monday, Obiena softened his stance on participating in such talks provided that PATAFA shows “good faith” in their dealings with him.

“With PSC, I know they’re doing their best to help us athletes,” Diaz said in a mix of English and Filipino.

“I’ve also had problems with liquidation, and requesting, but at the end of the day, we communicated well with my NSA. Communication is really what is needed, as well as respect for the athlete.”

PATAFA reiterated to the Senate that it is all set for a PSC-led mediation, and with Obiena saying he is “all in” on a “good faith” talk, a resolution may finally be in the works between both sides. –