After almost giving up, Obiena is Asian champ
There were times that EJ Obiena had thought of ditching his pole for something else.
He surely won’t do that now. Not after this.
The 23-year-old on Sunday ruled the pole vault event of the 23rd Asian Athletics Championships in record style in Doha, Qatar, and Obiena can now set his sights on conquering greater heights after earning a ticket to see action in the World Championships later in the year.
“I’m proud to say that after all the trouble, we finally made it happen. It took a lot and felt like hell sometimes. There were times that I lost hope,” said Obiena, the country’s premier pole vaulter who reset the 26-year-old standard of 5.70 Kazakhstan’s Grigoriy Yegorov established in the 1993 edition in Manila.
Son of pole vault great Emerson Obiena, EJ cleared 5.71 meters to set a new meet record while beating China’s Wei Zhang and Bokai Huang in the process.
“There were times that I got frustrated. There were a lot of heartbreaks and pain in this journey,” said Obiena. “I endured all of these because I have been surrounded by people who believe in me.”
The road to become the continental champion was littered with obstacles and challenges for Obiena.
He trained under renowned Ukranian coach Vitaliy Petrov in Italy for over two years that slowly molded the 6-foot-3 Obiena into a world-class athlete.
“He (Petrov) sacrificed a lot for me and pushed me to become better not just in sports, but also in life. I owe him a lot,” said Obiena, who also expressed his gratitude to athletics chief Philip Ella Juico, his family, coaches and sponsors.
With his splendid performance, Obiena became eligible for the World Championships in September in Doha. That vault also reset the Philippine record of 5.55 he set in the Singapore Open two years ago.
“This is for everyone who stayed with me through the hard times. This is not my win, this is our win and I can’t thank you all enough,” said Obiena.
He failed to hurdle 5.76 meters, but the botched effort hardly mattered as his chief opponents eventually fumbled in their succeeding attempts.
Zhang found 5.71-m too high and failed three straight times, while Huang wasn’t able to overcome the same height twice before trying his luck at 5.76 that also ultimately led to failure.
Your weekly sports analysis
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.