After garnering another gold medal at the Southeast Asian Games and breaking another record, Filipino pole vault star EJ Obiena has shared that he plans to auction the same shoes he wore on Monday’s competition in a bid to nurture more pole vault talents in the Philippines.
Obiena remained the SEA Games’ pole vault king after setting a new record with a clearance of 5.65 meters, defeating his old record of 5.46 meters he scored in Vietnam the previous year.
“We need more pole vaulters in the Philippines,” Obiena told the media, adding that he hoped the auction would be enough to raise money for a pole vault pit in a province.
Obiena shared that he was moved by a video of a child from Tuguegarao who performed a pole vault without a pit.
“I wish I had a lot of money. I would have just bought one. Hopefully, we raise something for them. If not, we get some kind of pit. If we can’t get an actual size, we’ll get something,” he said.
Obiena, currently ranked as the third-best men’s pole vaulter in the world, previously faced difficulties in his athletic journey in the Philippines. In February, Obiena missed the Asian Indoor Championships in Kazakhstan due to logistical problems regarding his poles, on top of mounting financial woes surrounding his team.
“Despite all the issues of the past supposedly being resolved, my team has not been paid now in over a year. Payments are caught up in red tape. Unfortunately, some 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. I can only hope this resolves soon. I am losing a team I desperately need. Nobody wins alone. It’s always been a team effort,” he explained.
Obiena was also previously embroiled in a public feud with former PATAFA president Philip Ella Juico over liquidation documents. The athlete was cleared by the Commission on Audit and supposedly reached an agreement with the field federation as mediated by the Philippine Sports Commission.