NINETEEN-year-old pole-vaulter Ernest John “EJ” Obiena, continues to reach greater heights, winning the first ever Philippine athletics gold in the meet when he ruled his event in the 17th ASEAN University Games in Palembang, Indonesia last week.
He was expectedly emotional because it was also the first time for the second generation athlete, son of former pole vault national champion Emerson Obiena, to win gold in pole vault in international competition.
“When the flag was being raised I said to myself don’t cry and make a commotion. I felt goose bumps from my toes to my head when our national anthem was being played. I was thinking what I needed to do to feel and be in this position again. One thing came to my mind: train harder,” said Obiena who was grateful for the chance to compete in Indonesia.
Obiena cleared 5.10 meters to win the event. His personal best is 5.20 meters. The Asian qualifying standard is also 5.10 meters.
The year 2014 has been particularly eventful for Obiena who turned 19 just this November. He shattered the 22-year mark of 5.0 meters set by Ed Lasquete in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics by registering 5.01 meters in the Philippine Sports Commission-Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association weekly relays at the Philsports Oval in Pasig City last July.
The 5.01 mark is also a national juniors record because Obiena was still a junior when he set the mark having turned 19 only last November. Since competing in the sport Obiena improved the junior record from 4.31 to 5.01 in just the last three years.
Obiena reset that Philippine mark to 5.15 meters during the PSC-Patafa Weekly Relay at the PhilSports Oval in Pasig last August. The vault of 5.15 meters ties the gold medal vault in the past Southeast Asia Games held in Myanmar.
Just one week after setting a new Philippine men’s pole vault record Obiena again set a new mark with his vault of 5.20 meters during the 76th Singapore Open Track & Field Championships 2014 last August 24.
His vault of 5.20 meters was enough to give him the silver medal behind gold medalist Duh Yeon Han of South Korea who cleared 5.30 meters.
Obiena has been regularly improving the Philippine record in pole vault after he spent three months training in Formia, Italy under coach Vitaly Petrov who coached Obiena’s idol, six-time world pole vault champion Sergey Bubka of Ukraine.
Obiena erased the 22-year Philippine mark of 5.01 meters a week after returning from Italy and almost like clockwork has regularly improved the Philippine record. He is well on his way to follow the footsteps of his idol, pole vault legend Bubka.
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