- EJ Obiena is the first representative of the Philippines in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics
- Obiena cleared 5.81 meters in an athletics meet in Chiara, Italy.
- Despite not being able to beat the 5.9 Asian record, he broke his own national record of 5.76
The country has found its first representative in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in Filipino pole vaulter EJ Obiena.
The Filipino athlete cleared 5.81 meters in an athletics meet in Chiara, Italy, where he surpassed the 5.80 qualifying standard for men’s pole vault in his third and last attempt to beat five opponents for the gold medal, according to Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) president Phillip Ella Juico.
Even though the 23-year-old son of former pole vault legend Emerson Obiena tried and failed to surpass the 5.9 meters Asian record, he broke his own national record of 5.76, which he set during the 2019 Summer Universiade, which was also held in Italy last July.
According to Juico, when PATAFA called up the newest Filipino Olympian, he said that the experience felt like he was “floating in the air as [he] let go of the pole and went over the bar.
In a statement Juico provided on Wednesday, he emphasized that Obiena’s accomplishment should serve as an inspiration to other athletes as well.
“It is PATAFA’s honor to have the first Tokyo Olympics qualifier come from its ranks. EJ’s feat comes at a time when the Philippines faces various daunting challenges in the international front, including the 30th Southeast Asian Games and this should inspire other athletes,” he said.
“It took EJ five years of intense and dedicated training, countless international competitions, the most modern coaching techniques and support from the Philippine Sports Commission, Ayala Corp, private individuals and most recently, the Management Association of the Philippines, to help EJ get to where he is now and where he is headed,” he added.
Last July, Obiena raised the bar after becoming the World University champion in the men’s pole vault at the 30th Summer Universidale, also held in Italy. In an interview with ABS-CBN, he expressed that he has always been dreaming of representing Philippines.
The 23-year-old athlete from Tondo is currently ranked 13th in the world, according to the International Association of Athletics Federations website.
By earning an Olympics slot though the qualifying standard, Obiena avoided the route of qualifying based on ranking.