By KRISTEL SATUMBAGA
The moment has finally arrived for EJ Obiena,
On another exciting Sunday (Monday in Manila) at the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon, Obiena made history after capturing a bronze medal in record fashion, a performance that trended immediately on social media.
Obiena could have brought home a silver medal, but sadly, he lost to American Chris Nilsen on countback after both sailed over 5.94m with nary a trouble.
In doing so, the 26-year-old Obiena, who was a dispappointment during the Tokyo Games last year, eclipsed his own PH and Asian mark of 5.93 set in the 17th Golden Roof Challenge in Innsbruck, Austria last year.
But the day simply belonged to Swede Mondo Duplantis as he showed why he’s one of the world’s most recognizable athletes by clearing 6.21m with ease to complete his medal collection, having won the gold Olympic last year.
That bettered by 1cm his previous best set when he humbled the field at the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade in March.
What made the feat extra special was that he became the first Filipino to make it to the podium of the prestigious tournament.
At one point, Obiena led the field along with training partner, 2016 Rio Olympics champion Thiago Braz of Brazil, after Duplantis and Nilsen needed two attempts to clear 5.87m.
Obiena’s feat was his eighth podium finish this year – including five gold medals. His last golden finish came at the Jump and Fly Meet in Hechingen, Germany last July.
With this achievement, Obiena further boosted his medal campaign in the 2024 Paris Olympics, where he aims to become the first Filipino to win an Olympic medal since Miguel White won the bronze in the men’s 400m hurdles of the 1936 Berlin Games.
It also bolstered his preparations for the delayed 19th Asian Games scheduled next year in Hangzhou, Asia where he also seeks to end a gold-medal drought in athletics.
The last time athletics went home with an Asian Games gold medal was in 1986 when Lydia de Vega retained her women’s 100m dash title.
BEST IS YET TO COME
But Obiena is not contended with the bronze, saying “The best is yet to come.”
“Philippines is the best in Asia for pole vault. And third best in the world. Hungry for more cookie,” Obiena said in a social media post.
The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) also congratulated Obiena for his record-breaking show.
Even President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was elated with Obiena’s latest achievement.
“President Bongbong Marcos also said in Malacañang that regardless of the color of the medal, he will always be proud of the performances of the national athletes in international competitions since they are representing the country,” said PSC Officer-in-Charge Atty. Guillermo Iroy Jr.