EJ Obiena delivers PH’s first Asian Games gold in Hangzhou with record win
HANGZHOU, China—EJ Obiena lived up to expectations and delivered the first gold medal of the Philippines in the 19th Asian Games on Saturday evening.
With hardly any threat to the two-time Asian champion, Obiena validated his claim to the continental throne and added the Asiad diadem to his myriad of medal collections.
Obiena cleared 5.75 meters for the gold and later on established a new Asian Games Games record by hurdling 5.90m when all of his rivals already fell by the wayside.
“I think it was like icing on the cake to me. This is the biggest job, our country needed it and it’s my job to bring it,” Obiena said.
Obiena, the world’s second best in the discipline behind world champion Armand “Mondo’” Duplantis of Sweden, sought to break his own Asian record of six meters by elevating the bar to 6.02, but proved unsuccessful in three attempts.
The Filipino pole vault celebrity wiped out the 5.75m Asian Games record of Japan’s Seito Yamamato, who achieved the golden feat in the 2018 edition in Indonesia.
Obiena’s gold medal ended more than a week of waiting for a victory-starved delegation in the continental version of the Olympics.
“It feels good. A lot of people were probably expecting it, putting pressure on my shoulders, Finally, I guess you guys put it out there like it was sure gold. We pushed through and we were able to do what we needed to do,” Obiena. said.
Prior to the golden breakthrough, Team Philippines only picked up a silver in wushu courtesy of sanda fighter Arnel Mandal and six bronzes, including two from tennis wonder Alex Eala in the women’s singles and mixed doubles with Francis Casey Alcantara.
China’s Huang Bokai got the silver via countback (5.65) and Saudi Arabia’s Hussain Al Hizam took the bronze after hurdling the same height.
Obiena is the first and only Filipino so far to qualify for next year’s Paris Olympics.
The Italy-based 27-year-old missed out on a medal in the previous Asiad five years ago and ended up seventh after shortly recovering from an ACL injury at the time.
But everything has gone north for Obiena since then.
He bagged a bronze medal in the 2022 World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon and showed great strides after a silver performance at exactly the same global meet last month in Budapest, Hungary.
After rewriting history with these pair of medals in the world championships, Obiena quenched the thirst of Philippine track and field for a podium finish in these Games for nearly three decades.
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Elma Muros-Posadas was the last Filipino who nailed a medal in Asiad athletics when she pocketed the bronze in the women’s long jump in 1994 Hiroshima. The last gold medal was courtesy of Lydia de Vega in 1989 Seoul.
Before coming over to this Chinese information technology hub as Team Philippines’ flag-bearer during the opening ceremony last week, Obiena again placed second to Duplantis in the Diamond League finals in Oregon.
Obiena’s gold medal will close out a season loaded with success, before implementing a comprehensive training plan that will zero in on that gold medal in the Paris Summer Games beginning January.