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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

EJ prevails through adversity

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ERNEST JOHN “EJ” OBIENA retained his gold medal at the Copernicus Cup in Torun on Thursday to go 5-for-5 in podium finishes in the indoor pole vault season.

Distractions? Obiena showed he has mastered the skill of clearing his mind of negatives in all of his five competitions so far this season—he aired on Wednesday his predicaments of being unable to compete in the Asian indoor championships and his team, including himself, still waiting for financial support from the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).

“I am proud of EJ [Obiena],” Jim Lafferty, Obiena’s personal adviser, told BusinessMirror on Thursday. “If ever there’s an individual so strong that he consistently wins through adversity, it’s EJ.”

Obiena titled his Facebook post on Wednesday “How can you mend a broken Heart?” as he lamented a missed opportunity at the Asian indoors because there are no airlines which can accommodate pole vaults to and from Astana.

But he pinched the PSC leadership in the same post saying that his team, aptly called Team Obiena, “has not been paid now in over a year.”

“Payments are caught up in red tape,” he said in the post. “Unfortunately, some [members] of my team are now threatening to leave Team Obiena. I cannot blame them. Who could work free for over a year? They have families to support and bills to pay. They can’t keep working for free.”

PSC chairman Richard Bachmann, who has warmed his seat at the agency for five weeks, was quick to respond through a media statement minutes after Obiena’s social media post.

“I immediately communicated with him and made internal actions in the PSC,” Bachmann said. “I also received communication on this matter from the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association [PATAFA] and will continue to speed things up to help their national sports association and Mr. Obiena.”

Obiena has indeed already psyched himself into a world-class athlete—a professional at what he does—in Poland.

He leapt to 5.87 meters—7 cms better that his winning height last year—for his second consecutive gold and fifth-straight podium finish in the “invitation only” indoor tournaments in Europe.

The Netherlands’ Rutger Koppelaar clinched silver with 5.82 meters, the same height achieved by Belgium’s Ben Broaders who was shoved to the bronze for attempting twice.

Obiena’s pal, Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics gold medalist Thiago Braz da Silva of Brazil, did 5.52 meters and ranked eighth in the 10-athlete competition.

“He did what he had to do—to win against a world-class field,” Lafferty said. “EJ is moving on and staying focused on winning for his country.”

Obiena also won gold at the Perche en Our meet in Roubaix, France; silver at the Internationales Springer-Meeting in Cottbus, Germany; and bronze at the Mondo Classis in Uppsala, Sweden, where the who’s who in men’s pole vault competed, including Olympic and world champion and world record holder Armand Duplantis, who dominated the competition he annually hosts.

PATAFA president Terry Capistrano, meanwhile, told BusinessMirror also on Thursday that the federation has accelerated discussions with the PSC to resolve the issues on unpaid allowances and fees to Team Obiena.

“EJ is right, he doesn’t receive any allowance yet from the PSC and we’re hoping they will expedite it the soonest,” Capistrano said. “EJ really loves his country despite what’s happening and despite the financial problems he’s facing, he still competes.”

Obiena had a rift involving financial issues with the PATAFA administration that preceded Capistrano’s term.

That rift turned ugly and had to be resolved through mediation.

Read full article on BusinessMirror

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