“Flying Pinoy” EJ Obiena continues making mark in global athletics meets
By Eddie Alinea
Mon, 12 Sep 2022
It doesn’t matter now how many medals Filipino pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena has brought home since invading the European Circuit following his gold medal victory in the Asian Track and Field Championships held in 2019 in Doha, Qatar.
Nor becoming the first for the Philippines to emerge victorious in the Asian level competitions in a little less than 100 years, nor being the first, too, from this shore to make it to the Olympic Games in his event, before becoming the highest finishing Asian to end up 11th in last XXXII Games of the Olympics held last year in Tokyo.
And, also, the first Pinoy flyer to come up with a podium finish (3rd) in the 18th World Athletics Championships held last July 15-24 in Eugene. Oregon, USA.
The past three years, Obiena showed what a tremendous athlete he is. His career broke all the Philippine and Asian records.
In his gold medal victory in Doha, EJ to the athletics world, put an end to the country’s long 94-year drought for gold since Antonino Alo reigned supreme in pole vault in the 1925 edition of the Far Eastern Games held in Manila.
Alo, actually, was the dominant figure in his favorite event in the FEG, acknowledged as the precursor of the now Asian Games, crowning himself as its kingpin twice counting his first gold medal effort for the first time in 1919.
The media paid little attention to EJ’s 2019 ground-breaking feat. Either out of ignorance over the significance of his heroics, denying him of a place in one of the most memorable moments in Philippine’s sports history.
Most accounts buried the son of pole vaulter father Emerson and hurdler mother Jeanette heroics at the bottom of the sports pages. They failed to bury though the reverberations from that breakthrough moment.
Thanks to EJ himself who committed himself to competing almost weekly or even less from the time he was reinstated as member of the national T&F team by his own federation.
He, in fact, even without financial help from the Philippine Sports Commission, which suspended all support, financial or otherwise, since he was criminally accused by the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA), crawled from nowhere to emerge the third best pole vaulter in the world by snatching the bronze medal in the last World Athletics Championships held in Eugene, again a first for the country in history.
And, only on a Friday a few week ago, the 26-year-old pride of Barrio Obrero in Tondo, stunned Olympic and world champion Armand “Mondo” Duplantis of Sweden to steal the gold medal in the prestigious Wanda Diamond League in Brussels, Belgium.
The young, 22 year-old world record-holder Swede settled for second place in his first defeat in a long, long time edging USA's Christopher Nilsen, another Olympic medalist.
The product of the University of Santo Tomas sports program, came off of back-to-back first place finishes in Germany, sprinted, jumped and flew to 5.91m in his third attempt to rule the latest edition of the Diamond League.
“A core memory," Obiena wrote of his memorable feat in his social media account. "Made a core memory today. First [Wanda Diamond League] win here in [Allianz Memorial van Damme] with 5.91m."
Also in the competition were Obiena's training partner Thiago Braz, Renaud Lavillenie and Oleg Zernikel.
Next up for Obiena was the ISTAF in Berlin where he, again romp off with podium finish – a bronze – as part of his preparations to the 2024 Paris Olympics where he hopes to, again, beat Duplantis and all comers and steal, too, the number 1 position in the world standing.
Before his dismal showing in Brussels, the US-born Swede had won 17 competitions, 14 achieved with vaults over the six-metre barrier.
Duplantis himself acknowledged his rare loss in an interview with Agance France Press. "I did a lot of things poorly technically," said the meticulous perfectionist in a notoriously technically-testing discipline that needs mastery of the runway approach, proper handling of the pole and complete confidence in the exacting projection upwards and over the bar.
"It's rare for me to jump the way I did. Maybe I needed a bit of a wake-up call. I've got to come back next year and do something more special for the people that came out."
He maintained that he felt he could have jumped higher even as he promised.
"But I didn't jump as I would have liked, for sure. I am human and I make mistakes and I definitely made some to improve by the time of next week's Diamond League finals in Zurich.
"In Zurich I'll try to come back a little stronger than here. I want to put up another good performance at the end of the year and end on a high," he vowed.
He did by ruling the event. In the absence, of course, of now known as the “Flying Pinoy.”
Photo: Obiena's jump at the Wanda Diamond League in Brussels, Belgium that netted him the championship.
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