A day after becoming the first ever Asian to hit the 6-meter mark in the men’s pole vault competition, the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) expects Ernest John “EJ” Obiena to deliver more glory for the country in his upcoming overseas competitions.
The 27-year-old Tondo pride sailed over the 6-meter barrier to win the gold during the Bergen Jump Challenge over the weekend in Bruggen, Norway, a feat that bodes well to his campaign for another shot in the Olympics next year.
“While we are all elated with EJ Obiena’s 6-meter performance in Norway the other day, we, the PATAFA, believe that he can do better in the coming months and beyond knowing what he’s capable of as a world class athlete,” PATAFA President Terry Capistrano said.
And PATAFA is convinced that Obiena’s latest achievement was just the start of something good for himself and for the country.
His next target is the Asian Athletics Championships on July 12 to 16 in Pattaya, Thailand and then World Athletics Championships on August 19 to 27 in Budapest, Hungary.
His golden feat in Norway has also made Obiena the odds-on favorite in the Hangzhou 20th Asian Games on September 23 to October 8 — where all these tournaments mentioned are all Paris Olympic qualifying events starting July 1 up to June 30 next year.
“We are happy and proud of EJ for becoming the first Asian athlete to join the 6-meter club in the men’s pole vault. But we know he is capable of doing better because of his continuous training and competing abroad under veteran coach Vitaly Petrov plus his perseverance,” he added.
Capistrano, however, had advised the three-time Southeast Asian Games gold medalist not to rest on his laurels and instead intensify his training for the coming major events.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done in order for him to get to where he should be. He has been working very hard to get to that 6-meter club,” Capistrano said of the World No. 3 and Asia’s No. 1 pole vaulter.
PATAFA and Capistrano also thanked the Philippine Sports Commission headed by Chairman Dicky Bachmann and the Philippine Olympic Committee headed by President Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino for their unconditional support.
Obiena is now the 28th member of the exclusive men’s pole vault 6-meter club — joining the likes of World No. 1 and record holder Armand Duplantis (Sweden) followed by Renaud Lavillenie (France) and the legendary Sergey Bubka (Ukraine), KC Lightfoot (USA), Steve Hooker (Australia), Chris Nilsen (USA), Thiago Braz de Silva (Brazil), Brad Walker (USA), Paul Burgess (Australia), Toby Stevenson (USA), Jeff Hartwig (USA), Timothy Mack (USA), Sam Kendricks (USA), Maksim Tarasov (Russia);
Dmitri Markov (Belarus), Okkert Brits (South Africa), Radion Gataullin (Russia), Yevgeny Lukyanenko (Russia), Igor Trandenkov (Russia), Piotr Lisek (Poland), Bjorn Otto (Germany), Tim Lobinger (German), Danny Ecker (Germany), Jean Galfione (France), Shawnacy Barber (Canada), Timothy Morgunov (ANA) and Sondre Guttormsen (Norway).