Obiena looks repeat that one performance in Belgium where he beat the world’s best | Inquirer Sports

Obiena looks repeat that one performance in Belgium where he beat the world’s best

By: - Reporter / @junavINQ
/ 05:04 AM January 03, 2023

Ernest John ‘EJ’ Obiena

Ernest John Obiena has silenced all doubters on his ability to shine bright on the world stage with a banner season the past year—despite everything that went on around him.

But the Filipino pole vault idol won’t lounge around, as he gears up passionately this year to surpass his limits in time for the 2024 Paris Olympics.


“Training would be tough, as this is the year to build and push the limits and test new things to know by [Paris] 2024 what would be the best approach,’’ Obiena told the Inquirer.

The 27-year-old Obiena became the first Filipino to stand on the medal podium of the World Athletics Championships with a bronze medal in the Eugene, Oregon, meet in July 2023 where the best competitors in athletics converged.


Battling great odds even outside the competition, Obiena cleared 5.94 meters in a third-place finish that featured the gold standard in his sport.

Olympic champion Armand Duplantis of Sweden reset the world record to 6.21 meters for the gold medal, while Chris Nilsen of the United States seized the silver via the countback after clearing the same height as Obiena.

The accomplishment propelled the Asian record holder to surge up to No. 3 in the world from sixth overall behind Duplantis and Nilsen.

But the other high point of Obiena’s season probably was in the Wanda Diamond League in Brussel, Belgium, in September where he beat Duplantis.

Beating Duplantis

Obiena hurdled 5.91 meters in his third attempt, a height World No. 1 Duplantis wasn’t able to clear.More than boosting his confidence, it became apparent that Obiena showed he can beat the best in the Olympics.

“I proved to myself what I’ve been saying that I can compete with these guys and I can win,’’ said Obiena, who improved vastly since he was taken under the care of renowned Ukrainian coach Vitaly Petrov in a training facility in Formia, Italy, since 2014.

The second-generation vaulter from Tondo, Manila, will kick off his 2023 campaign in the Asian Athletics Indoor Championships in Uzbekistan on Feb. 10 to Feb. 12 as part of his preparation for the looming Paris Olympic qualifiers.


Obiena said that there are quite a number of championships to be had this year.

After the Asian Indoor Championships, the outdoor season arrives with six to eight tournaments on the pipeline for EJ, mostly in Europe.

Obiena will be defending his Southeast Asian (SEA) Games title anew and try to surpass his own record during the May 5 to 17, 11-nation sportsfest in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The biennial 2023 Asian Athletics Championships, canceled by Hangzhou, China, in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has been penciled for July 12 to 16 in Pattaya, Thailand.

The 6-foot-2 Obiena holds the Asian record at 5.94 meters, which he set during the 2022 International Golden Roof Challenge in Innsbruck, Austria, in September last year to become Asia’s top male vaulter.

Tournament sched

Then comes the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, from Aug. 19 to 27, where he aims to do better following a bronze finish last year. And from Europe, Obiena goes back to Asia for the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, on Sept. 23 to Oct. 8.

“These should be the major competitions I would prepare for. The [Paris Olympic] qualifiers will start July 1, though when it comes to points, every competition counts,’’ said Obiena.

“I am hoping to lessen the funding problem and logistics of my equipment with the help of [Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association president] Mr. [Terry] Capistrano,’’ added Obiena, whose training is being heavily bankrolled by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) apart from other sponsors.

Obiena continued to blossom last year despite a long-drawn dispute with the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association and its former president Philip Ella Juico over their disagreement on the handling of funds intended for the salaries of Petrov.

The rift even reached the Senate and the House of Representatives before the conflicting parties arrived at a settlement through the mediation of the PSC then headed by chair William “Butch’’ Ramirez.

That distraction didn’t stop Obiena from reaching another level of success never before seen from a Filipino on the field.

Counting the Wanda Diamond League in Brussels, Obiena also emerged victorious in the Orlen Cup, Orlen Copernicus Cup, European City of Sports, Taby Stavhoppsgala and Jump and Fly Series last year. He likewise dominated his event in the SEA Games held in Vietnam in the middle of the year.

“We’re getting more scientific equipment to test speed and strength to not just improve the technique, but push the border of my raw physical abilities,’’ said Obiena.

EJ’s own team

Helping him out apart from Petrov is a team composed of physiotherapist Francesco Viscusi, osteopath Antonio Guglietta, Carol and Jim Lafferty in nutrition and psychologist Sheryll Casuga. His father, Emerson Obiena, is also part of the team.

“Regular training is more or less six to eight hours, depending on the day. For competitions, most of it is rest and active rest after the travel. In between, I mostly sleep or do paper works,’’ said Obiena.

Vying for his second Olympics after placing 11th in the 2021 Tokyo Summer Games, Obiena can qualify for the Paris Games in two ways, either via entry standards or through the World Athletics rankings.

The Olympic qualifying standard for men’s pole vault is 5.82 meters.

While meeting 5.82 meters or maintaining his No. 3 rankings will be his initial objectives, winning a gold medal in Paris is the ultimate goal.

“I have to out-jump everyone else [on that day],’’ said Obiena.

He did that last September and will be working hard to do it again in Paris. INQ

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

Read Next
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.

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.

TAGS: EJ Obiena, pole vault
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.
Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our sports news

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

© Copyright 1997-2023 | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.