MANILA, Philippines – Ernest John Obiena ruled the pole vault at the 2019 Universiade to set a new Philippine record in Napoli Friday night, July 12 (Saturday morning, July 13, Philippine time).
Obiena jumped 5.76 meters, surpassing the previous national mark of 5.71 that he also set in the Asian Athletics Championships in Doha last April. He defeated Torben Blech of Germany on countback. Third was Ben Broeders of Belgium with 5.51 meters.
Obiena and Blech are in the world’s top 20 pole vaulters, according to the IAAF’s latest rankings.
“This is a world level competition and the Philippines is No. 1 because of Ernest Obiena,” said coach Joseph Sy in a Facebook message from the venue.
The 23-year-old Obiena’s feat boosted his stock as a strong gold medal bet for the Philippines in this year’s Southeast Asian Games in Manila.
Obiena’s gold was just the second for the Philippines in the tournament after Wesley So won in 2013, one year before he decided to play for the United States.
Sy added that the 6-foot-2 Obiena got an invitation to compete in the IAAF Diamond League 4 days from now in Stockholm, signalling his entry into the elite.
“This is great news for us,” said Jeanette, Obiena’s mother, in a phone interview. His victory came almost two years after a training injury before the 2017 Southeast Asian Games cost him a slot in the national team.
“He is determined to go as far as he can,” added his mother.
Obiena was in Italy for his training under Russian coach Vitaly Petrov, the mentor of pole vault legend Sergei Bubka when the Universiade took place. He took advantage of the timing.
Obiena has been training through the help of the Philippine Sports Commission, the Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association and from private sector sponsors secured by PATAFA president Philip Juico. – Rappler,com