Sports

EJ Obiena getting ‘multiple’ passport offers from other countries


Philippines' Ernest John Obiena competes in the men's pole vault final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 3, 2021. (Photo by Ben

FILE – The Philippines’ Ernest John Obiena competes in the men’s pole vault final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 3, 2021. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP)

MANILA, Philippines–Philippines’ top pole vaulter EJ Obiena had gotten “multiple” offers from other countries even before being embroiled in a controversy with the national athletics federation.

This was revealed by Obiena’s mentor Jim Lafferty as Obiena battles allegations of falsification of liquidation documents and failure to pay his coach brought forward by the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association.

“Long before this happened, there was already a line of people at his door to offer him a passport,” said Lafferty in an interview with ONE Sports’ Gretchen Ho. “Multiple [countries]. It’s not one. It’s multiple.”

“He is the hottest thing in track and field, because he’s gone from [world] No. 30 to No. 10 to No.8 to No.5  and everyone is afraid of him….He’s gonna win golds in big competitions. Now you don’t think other countries don’t want that?”

Obiena, who holds the Asian record in men’s pole vault of 5.93 meters has threatened to retire from international competition following his row with Patafa, demanding a “full and public withdrawal of investigation, and a full public apology from the authorities involved.”

He has insisted that he has fully paid his Ukrainian coach Vitaliy Petrov but admitted to paying the legendary mentor late in the past. Petrov backed Obiena’s statement.

According to an Inquirer report, Patafa is pushing through with its decision to investigate Obiena “based on the evidence they have” even if the Tokyo Olympian refuses to face probe.

“It’s no secret in today’s world that a number of counties are looking at this situation and laughing controllably at how the Philippines is driving away a world class athlete that they can offer a passport to,” Lafferty said.

Lafferty said Obiena had asked for his advice on the offers from other countries in the past, but the pole vaulter insisted on representing the Philippines.

“I’ve always told him, ‘you wanna vault for your home country.’ He said, ‘I do.’ He doesn’t want to leave the Philippines. He doesn’t want to do this. He wants to stay and vault here. But how do you vault when your own federation is trying to kill you?

One of the biggest Filipino stars who changed nationalities after a murky history with sports authorities is Super Grandmaster Wesley So, who is now an American Citizen.

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