Filipino fans were disheartened after learning that world no. 3 pole vaulter EJ Obiena could not compete in the upcoming Asian Indoor Championships due to logistics and financial concerns.
“I am truly heartbroken to share this news. I shall be unable to participate in the upcoming Asian Indoor Championships next week in Kazakhstan. I won’t be able to bring glory to my country,” Obiena said in a Facebook post.
“My heart is broken. It’s a missed opportunity for me to fight for Gold for [the] Philippines,” he added.
The athlete said he could not join the competition because they could not transfer his poles to the venue in Astana, Kazakhstan.
“Despite huge efforts from everyone including my federation (PATAFA) and Mr. 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,” Obiena said.
Other Asian pole vaulters have also experienced the same concern, the 6’2″ athlete said.
On average the pole used by Obiena measures 5.20 meters or almost triple of EJ’s height.
RELATED: Here’s how Olympian EJ Obiena transports his poles
Apart from logistics, Obiena and his team also are facing continuing financial concerns.
“Despite all the issues of the past supposedly being resolved, my team has not been paid now in over a year,” Obiena revealed.
“Payments are caught up in red tape,” as he revealed that some of his team considers leaving.
The athlete said he could not blame his team as he understands that they have families to support and bills to pay.
“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,” he wrote.
In 2021, the national athlete was embroiled in a funding controversy with the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association.
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“As the old song asks, ‘How do you mend a broken heart?’ he said.
“The answer is simple. I look ahead to upcoming competitions and I will continue to do my best for my country. That’s the solution and that’s all I can do,” Obiena said.
Call for gov’t, private support
Filipino online users felt bad for Obiena and his team. Others urged the government and private organizations to support the athlete who has been bringing to honor to the country.
“That is so sad. I hope someone in the government knows your problem. And resolve the issues about the money. So sorry for you having a hard time. It’s really heartbreaking. Sending hugs and love to you,” a Facebook user said.
“So sad but anyway thank you for not giving up…stay strong and focus on your goal…we’re here to support you,” a social media user commented.
“The Philippines (government) does not deserve you. You have brought so much pride and glory to the country and this is what you get in return,” an online user said.
“If [the] government cannot help then I hope private groups like the MVP Sports Foundation, Inc. will step in,” a social media user said.
“You need full support from the government Ej, you can’t get it all by yourself and your team. I hope they would help you. You brought so much pride to our country and to our fellow Filipinos. May you get the funds that you need and the payment that your team deserve,” a Facebook user commented.
“[T]o Philippine sports authorities please double time sa support kawawa nman mga athletes,” a social media user wrote.
“That is so frustrating EJ. Two factors that are beyond your control. The last one is even more thwarting. I hope PSC or PATAFA do their job. It is also embarrassing to the world what they’re doing to you and your team. This is unacceptable!’ an online user said.
On Sunday, February 5, Obiena secured the gold medal at the Orlen Cup Łódź 2023 in Poland after clearing 5.77 meters.