PH pole vaulter makes leap towards Olympic dream

Pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena made a giant leap during the weekend to move closer to his Olympic dream.

The 19-year-old hurdled 5.45 meters Sunday in the weekly relay organized by the Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association, resetting his own Philippine record that kept the second-generation athlete on track for a spot in the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympics.

“Thank you for all the people who supported me. I was able to set a new PR (personal record), new national record and new SEA (Southeast Asian Games) record,” said Obiena, son of former Philippine pole vault icon Emerson Obiena.

Bound for training under Vitaliy Petrov in Italy, Obiena needs to at least match the Olympic standard of 5.70 meters until July 11 next year. 

He settled for a silver medal in the Singapore SEA Games after clearing 5.20 early this year, but improved tremendously over the next three months.

Obiena won the gold in the Thailand Open last month with a 5.40 mark, erasing the 5.30 SEAG record of SEAG gold medalist Thai Pooranot Purahong.

“I jumped 5.45 meters and have some close attempts at 5.50. I’m getting closer to the goal and hitting the right marks at the right time,” said Obiena.

He will go back to the International Amateur Athletics Federation High Performance Training Center in Fornia, Italy to improve his mark under the guidance of Petrov, the trainer of former world champion and record holder Sergey Bubka of Ukraine.

Mentored closely by his father, Obiena has requested $28,000 with the Philippine Sports Commission to push through with the trip.

“It’s a matter between (PSC) chairman (Richie) Garcia and (cluster head) Romy Magat,” said PSC executive director Guillermo Iroy.

“But whatever happens, rest assured that the PSC will be solidly behind him. We will provide all the assistance he needs.”

Obiena is bidding to join Filipino-American hurdler Eric Cray, so far the lone Filipino qualifier to Rio.



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