Other countries interested to get Obiena, says mentor

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 26 2021 05:05 PM

Other countries interested to get Obiena, says mentor


If things do not work out between Filipino Olympian EJ Obiena and his mother federation Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA), he might just opt to find another country that will back him, just like chess champion Wesley So.

Athletics coach Jim Lafferty, who also mentors the Filipino pole vaulter, revealed that "multiple countries" have taken interest in Obiena due to his steady rise in the sport.

This was even before Obiena got entangled in a rift with the PATAFA leadership which accused him of tampering with the finances meant to pay his coaches.

"Long before this happened, there was already a line of people at his door to offer him a passport," Lafferty said in an interview with Gretchen Ho in One News' "The Big Story."

"He is the hottest thing in track and field because he's gone from No. 30 to No. 10 to No. 8 to No. 5."

Obiena cried foul after PATAFA ordered him to return 85,000 euros (P4.8 million), claiming he did not pay his Ukrainian coach Vitaly Petrov.

But Petrov later appeared in a press conference, saying his salary has already been paid.

But PATAFA claimed there were liquidation discrepancies, and that Obiena has been late in settling dues with his coach. 

PATAFA chief Philip Juico further claimed that the money paid to the coach came from different sources, and not from the federation.

Lafferty said other countries are now probably amused with the way the issue has been handled in the Philippines.

"It's no secret in today's world that a number of countries are looking at this situation and laughing uncontrollably how the Philippines is driving away a world-class athlete that they can offer a passport to," he said.

Obiena was the only Asian to reach the final round of the Tokyo Olympics, where he finished 11th. 

Obiena later set the the Asian record in pole vault while topping the Golden Roof Challenge in Austria.

"Everyone's scared of him. A Brazilian coach told me a couple of years ago, the No. 1 guy out there is Obiena. He's going to win gold in big competitions. You don't think other countries don't want that?" Lafferty said.