Vaulting to the top

/ 04:02 AM December 09, 2019

Philippine’s, Obiena Ernest competes in the men’s pole vault final during the athletics competition at the 30th Southeast Asian Games at Athletics Stadium in New Clark City, Tarlac province, northern Philippines on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)

NEW CLARK CITY—The Rizal Memorial Sports Complex’ track and field stadium was one vast, wonderful playground for young Ernest John Obiena.

He would tag along with his dad, former national pole vaulter Emerson Obiena, who trained there regularly.


“EJ would collect flowers from the grass pitch and give it to me,” said his mother, Jeanette.

So one day when EJ was seven, Emerson handed him a PVC pipe to use as pole and the elder Obiena set up a patch of foam as a landing pad.
That’s how EJ discovered the thrill of generating lift from one point to another.


“He enjoyed it very much,” Jeanette said.

On Saturday evening, in front of thousands of hometown fans here, EJ shattered the Southeast Asian Games record on the way to his first gold medal in the biennial event.

“Filipino people was mad amazing, they just brought me here and they made me jump high,” EJ said.

Making it even more remarkable was that two years ago, he got injured on the eve of leaving for the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games.

“I can say I’m vindicated, finally, it’s just a blast,” he said.

He cleared 5.45 meters, which was enough to win the gold and also set the new SEA Games standard. But EJ admitted that he just played safe with that effort paling in comparison to his personal best of 5.81.

“Condition-wise, I’m not in my best shape yet because I’m doing my foundation training for Tokyo,” he said. So far, only Obiena and reigning world floor exercise champion gymnast Carlos Edriel Yulo have qualified for the 2020 Olympics.


“It’s been a while, we’ve been aiming for this for six years. I couldn’t have ridden it any better. My first gold in the SEA Games, [I’m] having one hell of a year,” said EJ at NCC stadium mixed zone.

He also ruled the Asian Championships in Doha, and the Universiade in Naples, Italy, early this year.

And as what any proud mom would say: “We are very proud of him. I hope that he keeps himself safe and healthy all the time.”

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TAGS: Ernest John Obiena, SEA Games, Sports
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