Asian Games

No surprise as EJ Obiena shatters Asian Games record for PH’s breakthrough gold

Delfin Dioquino

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No surprise as EJ Obiena shatters Asian Games record for PH’s breakthrough gold

CHAMPION. The Philippines' EJ Obiena celebrates after winning the gold medal in the men's pole vault in the 19th Asian Games.

Dylan Martinez/REUTERS

EJ Obiena breaks the golden ice for the Philippines after capturing his first Asian Games crown, ruling the men's pole vault with a record-setting performance

MANILA, Philippines –  EJ Obiena lived up to his billing as the Philippines’ strongest gold medal bet in the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.

Obiena broke the golden ice for the country after capturing his first Asian Games crown, ruling the men’s pole vault with a record-setting performance at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium on Saturday, September 30.

Establishing a new Asian Games mark of 5.90 meters, Obiena gave the Philippines its first athletics title in the continental showpiece since the late Lydia de Vega reigned in the women’s 100m in 1986.

Obiena erased the previous Asian Games mark of 5.70m set by Japan’s Seito Yamamoto in the 2018 edition, where he finished a distant seventh.

The first and only Asian member of the exclusive six-meter club, Obiena shattered the record with a successful vault at 5.75m then went on to eclipse it again, easily soaring past 5.90m in just a single try.

Obiena triumphed with hardly any challenge as silver winner Huang Bokai of China and bronze medalist Hussain Al-Hizam of Saudi Arabia bowed out at 5.65m.

With the win, Obiena also ended the Philippines’ near-three-decade medal drought in athletics since Elma Muros bagged bronze in the women’s long jump in 1994.

“We pushed through. I think we were able to do what we need to do,” Obiena told reporters, as posted by One Sports.

“It is a privilege to be able to be in this position where the whole country is literally expecting for a gold,” he added. “Thank God I did not crack.”

Obiena conserved his energy well as he skipped the first five heights, and by the time he saw action, half of the 12-man field were already eliminated.

He hurdled 5.55m with ease, passed at 5.65m, and cleared 5.75m in his second attempt to get the gold in the bag.

After leaping past 5.90m, Obiena attempted to reset his Asian record of 6.00m by going for 6.02m but to no avail despite the loud cheers of his fellow Filipino athletes and fans in the stands.

The Asian Games crown puts the cherry on top of a sensational outdoor season that saw the pride of Tondo, Manila win medals in 15 of the 16 meets he participated in.

Over the last five months, Obiena broke the six-meter barrier twice, defended his throne in the Asian Athletics Championships in July, and captured a historic silver in the World Athletics Championships in August.

He also qualified for the Paris Olympics, moved up to career-high second in the world rankings, and bagged silver in the Diamond League Final just two weeks before the Asian Games.

Up next for Obiena is a well-deserved break. –

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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.