World cup silver medallist and pole vault star EJ Obiena to lead Philippines' attack at the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou

Philippines’ Ernest John Obiena reacts as he competes in the men’s pole vault final during the World Athletics Championships at the National Athletics Centre in Budapest on August 26, 2023. - AFP

MANILA: Philippines pole vault and athletics supers star EJ Obiena has confirmed his participation in the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou from Sept 23-Oct 8.

After winning the silver at the recent World Championships in Budapest, Obiena is currently ranked second in the world in men's pole vault (2023), per the World Athletics Organisation.

At the recent world championships in Budapest, Obiena became the first Asian pole vaulter to clear 6 metres to bag the silver. He also won the bronze medal in the event at the Tokyo Olympics.

Besides Obiena, much of the Philippines' optimism in the coming Asian Games rests on Olympic medalist swimmer Kayla Noelle Sanchez.

The prospects of nabbing more medals in the continental showpiece will hinge on what the rest of the 396 Filipino athletes from 40 sports can deliver.

Boxers Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam, both of them Tokyo Olympics silver medalists, are favoured to go deeper into the medal rounds as well as middleweight Eumir Marcial, who made it to the bronze-medal platform of the previous Olympiad.

Although golfer Yuka Saso won’t be donning the national colors any longer after her shift of allegiance to Japan, Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz-Naranjo and skateboarder Margielyn Didal remain in the conversation to recreate their past triumphs.

Diaz-Naranjo won the gold in the women’s 55 kilogram (kg) in Indonesia, but won’t be in the same weight class that she ruled in the Olympics after going up to 59kg. Didal, meanwhile, tries to retain her throne in women’s street.

“Our athletes are all determined to become the best in their respective events regardless of the competition. We’re confident they can deliver,” said Philippine Olympic Committee president Bambol Tolentino.

In total, Philippines will send 396 athletes to Hangzhou, China, aiming for an improved performance at the upcoming 19th Asian Games, the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Abraham Tolentino said on Friday.

"This will be the best of the team. We hope to exceed our performance for the last four years," Tolentino told a forum in Manila. The delegation will be led by Olympian pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena, currently ranked No. 2 globally and No. 1 in Asia.

"We have high hopes for medals in weightlifting, boxing, swimming, and e-sports, with potential surprises in martial arts as well," Tolentino added.

The 19th Asian Games will commence on September 23 and conclude on October 8. The Philippine team will leave on Tuesday.

"We are excited to be in Hangzhou," Tolentino said. "It will be spectacular. You know how China hosts."

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