With SEAG haul and Obiena’s Tokyo ticket, better days ahead for PH athletics
Instead of spending the holidays with his family at home, Ernest John Obiena continues to pick up the pole and in an attempt to clear the bar as high as he can on a daily basis in wintry and faraway Italy.
The 24-year-old Asian champion immediately left the country after winning the gold medal in the men’s pole vault contest of the 30th Southeast Asian Games and proceeded with the journey toward the 2020 Tokyo Olympics right away.
Obiena, the first Filipino to qualify to the Tokyo Summer Games, has again plunged into training at this time of the year while most men his age celebrated the Christmas and the New Year with family, relatives and friends.“This will be the fourth time that I won’t be spending Christmas with my family,’’ Obiena said before his departure to Formia, Italy, where he has been honing his skills further with legendary Ukranian pole vault coach Vitaly Petrov.
Obiena won’t be alone in making such a sacrifice.
Filipino-American sprinter Kristina Knott, decathletes Aries Toledo and Janry Ubas, heptathlete Sarah Dequilan and triple jumper Harry Diones have decided to forgo their respective vacations and focus on an upcoming continental meet.
These tracksters contributed to the 27-medal haul of the Philippine track and field team in the SEA Games hosted by the country, highlighted by 11 gold medals aside from eight silvers and bronzes.
They will compete in the Asian Athletics Indoor Championships in Hangzhou, China, on Feb. 12 and 13 with five more Filipino tracksters, where an impressive performance will mean qualifying to the 18th World Athletics Indoor Championships one month later.
So far, only Obiena has punched a qualifying ticket to the world indoor champs in Nanjing, China, on March 13 to 15.
Knott, who captured a pair of SEA Games golds in the women’s 200-meter dash and 4×100-meter mixed relay and a silver in the 100 meters, is a leading candidate for an Olympic qualification along with pole vaulter Natalie Uy and marathoner Cristine Hallasgo.The three are tight contenders for the country’s female athletics entry to Tokyo based on universality place or gender equality rule in case no Filipino woman trackster meets the Olympic qualifying standard.
While the landscape for the national tracksters onward to the Olympics seems uncertain at this point, their SEA Games campaign early this month only showed that better days are in the horizon.