The Philippines’ top pole vaulter said his Southeast Asian Games stint next month might be in jeopardy after his poles were damaged in a flight to Italy soon after he won a bronze medal at the Asian Athletics Championships in India.
Ernest John Obiena, a member of UST’s athletics team, was supposed to be in a celebratory mood after being the first Thomasian to win a medal in the Asian Athletics Championships.
Instead, Obiena, who holds the Philippine record at 5.55 meters, has become wary that his chances of surpassing the 5.30-meter SEA Games record to win the gold is now in peril because of his damaged poles.
The 21-year-old took to Facebook on July 8 to appeal for help. He said replacing his eight fiberglass poles would cost an estimated $7,020 (roughly P350,000).
“It will affect the SEA Games if I don’t get replacement poles as soon as possible because I would not be able to jump in training and I am worried that the poles might not arrive on time,” Obiena told the Varsitarian in an online interview.
The Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association (PATAFA) offered to replace his equipment in time for the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur on Aug. 19, he said.
On his website, Obiena said he found out about the incident when he went to pick up his pole bag at an airport in Italy.
He said the lock was missing and there was a huge cut in the bag. He said the poles could no longer be used.
“All my hard work gone in a matter of seconds and my dreams are crushed. I was looking forward to representing my country in the upcoming South East Asian Games but all of it is a blur now without my equipment. I am here writing this to ask everybody that I can reach for help,” he wrote.
Obiena, the 2015 SEA Games silver medalist, had a similar incident last year after six of his poles were damaged during flight from Singapore.
Obiena said he waited five months before the airport took action.