Filipino world-ranked pole vaulter Ernest John “EJ” Obiena ((Photo from EJ Facebook page)

MANILA – World-ranked pole vaulter Ernest John “EJ” Obiena and young golf sensation Rianne Malixi lead seven other Filipino athletes who were granted Olympic Solidarity Scholarships (OSS) by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino said also making the list besides the 26-year-old Obiena and 14-year-old 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).

All the athlete scholars were endorsed by their respective national sports associations (NSAs), except for Obiena, the most accomplished on the list as the Asian men’s pole vault record holder.

Under the scholarships, Tolentino said each athlete will receive a grant of USD833 a month until the Paris 2024 Olympics.

“The POC wishes to congratulate these nine promising athletes for earning scholarships as they focus on their qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympics,” Tolentino said in a news release on Thursday. “This is the first time that our country has such a large number of scholars.”

Tolentino said Obiena’s inclusion even without the endorsement of the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association is testament to the IOC respecting and honoring the decision of national Olympic committees (NOCs).

The scholarship includes access to appropriate training facilities, a coach who specializes in their respective disciplines, regular medical and scientific assistance and control, accident and illness insurance, board and lodging costs, pocket money and most essentially travel costs for the athletes’ participation in relevant competitions and Paris 2024 qualification events.

The OSS is an IOC program that aims to assist elite athletes selected and proposed by their respective NOCs in their preparation and qualification for Paris 2024.

“All these athletes need to do is to focus on their training and set their goal toward the Paris Olympics,” Tolentino said.

He added that the POC will liquidate the athletes’ expenses to the Olympic Solidarity on a quarterly schedule based on the submission of reports by the scholars and their NSAs. (PR)