Flying high - Philippines superstar vaulter EJ Obiena wins gold at Asian Athletics Championships

EJ Obiena (centre) wins gold at Asian Athletics Championships in Bangkok, Thailand. - Philippines Daily Inquirer/ANN

BANGKOK (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN): Ernest John Obiena capped an exceptional Philippine campaign at the 25th Asian Athletics Championships with a prophesied triumph in men’s pole vault on Sunday night.

The world’s third-ranked vaulter validated his reign as the continental monarch of his event, topping the field in 5.91 meters at the Supachalasai National Stadium to retain the title he bagged in the 2017 edition in Doha, Qatar.

"My goal here was really to just compete the best that I can and just do what I know I could do,” said Obiena, who erased his previous record in the meet at 5.71m.

The now back-to-back Asian champion tried to break his own current personal best of six meters after raising the bar to 6.02, but couldn’t pull it off in three attempts.

Obiena’s golden jump, however, rewarded the nation with something to brag about.

Together with Robyn Lauren Brown’s victory in the women’s 400m hurdles, Team Philippines goes home on Monday with a pair of golds for the first time since the 1987 Asian champs in Singapore.

Back then, former Asia’s sprint queen Lydia De Vega scored a golden double in the women’s 100m and 200m.

“Most of our 21 athletes made the finals in this all-Asia championships. In this sense, the result is satisfactory,” said Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association president Terry Capistrano.

“But more importantly, we can start gauging or measuring ourselves with the rest of Asia,” added Capistrano.

The Philippines’ best finish was third overall, strengthened by four gold medals when it hosted the meet during the inaugural version in 1973 held at the Marikina Sports Complex.

Former Surigao del Norte governor Jose Sering, the Philippine track and field president back then, brought the tournament to the country as his crowning glory as the first president of the Asian Athletic Association (AAA).

Saudi Arabia’s Hussain Alhizam placed second after clearing 5.56 meters while China’s Huang Bokai took the bronze in 5.51m.

Obiena won his second consecutive Asian title with renowned Ukranian coach Vitaly Petrov by his side and both are looking to solidify their claim in the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China come September.

“The competition here is good and we will prepare hard for the Asian Games. We will not lose sight of our goal, which is continue to jump higher,” said Petrov.

Both athlete and coach will leave this exotic Thai capital early Monday morning with physiotherapist Antonio Guglietta in time for the Diamond League leg in Monaco on July 21.

Obiena and Brown will compete in the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary on Aug. 17-29. - Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN

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