MANILA, Philippines–The Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) scored the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) for endorsing pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena for a training grant for the 2024 Paris Olympics, saying the move, among others, pushed back the federation’s quest for gender equity and equal access for national athletes to funding.
Obiena was one of eight athletes recently granted Olympic Solidarity Scholarships (OSS) by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The world No. 5, along with 14-year-old golfer Riann Malixi are Elreen Ando (23 years old, weightlifting), Samantha Catantan (19, fencing), Aira Villegas (27, boxing), Rogen Ladon (28, boxing), Patrick Coo (20, BMX cycling), Jericho Francisco (20, skateboarding) and Allen Arcilla (19, wrestling) will receive $833 (around P43,500) a month until the Paris Games.
Except for Obiena, all other athletes were endorsed for the scholarship by their national sports associations (NSAs).
The Patafa had previously endorsed sprinter Kristina Knott, a move overruled by the POC during a general assembly last year. In a statement issued to media offices on Saturday, the Patafa said the “flagrant act” usurps “the Patafa’s function and mandate as the sports’ controlling body.”
The Patafa and Obiena are currently caught in a controversial row stemming from allegations that the Tokyo Olympian misappropriated training funds and submitted fraudulent liquidation papers.
But the Patafa, in its statement, said that the rift had nothing to do with its decision to nominate Knott for the scholarship, saying the federation came up with its selection before the controversy began.
“The PATAFA’s endorsement of Knott had long been decided upon, even before the case of Obiena’s alleged nonpayment of his Ukrainian coach Vitaly Petrov’s salary came out in the open,” The Patafa statement read. “[Patafa president Philip] Juico cited compelling reasons to endorse Knott as Athletics’ beneficiary: To promote gender equity, and to widen the opportunities for development and promote equal access to resources among the PATAFA’s 50 athletes.”
At the time of the Patafa’s decision to nominate Knott, also a Tokyo Olympian, “the Philippine Sports Commission had already approved the PATAFA’s request to grant P10 million pesos for Obiena’s training and preparation for the Paris Olympic 2024,” the statement, released by Patafa spokesperson and former POC president Cristy Ramos, said.
“The PATAFA, together with its athletes and coaches, stands firm on its nominee Kristina Knott to benefit from the Olympic Solidarity Scholarship Grant,” the statement added. “Knott’s nomination fulfills the criteria and procedures prescribed under the World Athletics and is aligned with its overall development priorities. Currently Obiena is not in the PATAFA National Training Pool, and therefore does not qualify as a PATAFA nominee.”
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