Last Wednesday, January 12, Chinoy pole vaulter EJ Obiena successfully underwent knee surgery and will return to competition in a few short weeks.
Obiena, who is currently ranked as the fifth-best pole vaulter in the world, is looking forward to resuming his competition season after having abruptly forced to end it last year due to a lack of funds. Shortly after making multiple headlines for being an Olympic finalist and breaking a 23-year old continental record, the Italy-based athlete also found himself embroiled in accusations of embezzlement by the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA), causing uncertainty on Obiena’s willingness to continue competing for the country. Although the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) has since declared PATAFA president Philip Ella Juico persona non grata, the dispute which was brought to light in November has yet to be resolved.
However, despite the ongoing controversy pending mediation by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), Obiena is starting 2022 on a positive note after having his left knee meniscus cleaned and a previously attached screw removed, revealing a bone graft that had fully solidified in his knee after an ACL reconstruction that he had done in 2017. The procedure was also announced to have been approved for funding by the PSC on January 11.
“Down but not OUT!!! Surgery was successful,” shared Obiena on a Facebook post last Wednesday.
“Thank you very much for everyone who helped and supported me to make this surgery possible as early as yesterday. I am also thankful for Chairman Butch Ramirez announcing yesterday that funds for my surgery [are] available. I may be able to use this money once available to me to reimburse the advances of good samaritans. My most immediate task is to get healthy and get back on track so that I can compete again for the country. Everything else is priority number 2. Time for work to be done!!!” Obiena added.
Expecting a fast recovery, the Asian record holder plans to compete in the Init Indoor Meeting in Karlsruhe, Germany on January 28 — a little over two weeks after the successful surgery. The competition will serve as a warm-up for the Asian Indoor Athletic Championship, which is slated to take place in Kazakhstan from February 11 to 13.
These events prelude the rest of the major competitions of the year, which will include the delayed Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, Vietnam, where Obiena is expected to defend his title, and the quadrennial Asian Games that will be held in Hangzhou, China.
Although PATAFA announced that it would drop Obiena from the national team on January 4, the national athletics federation deferred its plans after PSC’s intervention. Should PATAFA push through with the expulsion, the POC has offered to assist Obiena in sourcing private funds for his training.