World No. 2 pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena lived up to expectations by securing the Philippines’ first gold in the 19th Asian Games and setting a new Games record.
As anticipated, Obiena dominated the field, which included his fellow athletes trained under the guidance of the renowned coach Vitaly Petrov.
He cleared the bar at 5.75 meters.
However, Obiena’s feat didn’t stop there. He resetted his own mark with 5.9 meters in just one attempt, which was met with jubilation from the Filipino supporters in the stands, led by his teammates, Philippine Olympic Committee president Rep. Bambol Tolentino, and athletics chief Terry Capistrano.
“What a way to conclude this amazing season,” Obiena wrote on his Facebook. “Jumping in front of thunderous-synchronized claps of 80,000 people in a breathtakingly beautiful Hangzhou Stadium was more than enough to blow my mind and unquestionably register a core memory.”
He said, “What a privilege it was to deliver the country’s first gold in the 19th Asian Games and break the Championship Record. Now, we officially close this season with a smile. Thank you to my team for preparing me for the four major championships we took part in this year.”
In a heartfelt gesture to honor his coach on his birthday, Obiena then requested the bar to be raised to 6.02 meters in an attempt to surpass his own Asian record. Despite his valiant efforts, he was unable to clear the height.
Obiena said, “I think he (Petrov) just has to wait a little longer.”
His golden performance marks a significant milestone for Team Philippines in the 19th Asian Games, bringing its total to one gold, one silver, and six bronze medals, placing them at the 18th spot overall as of September 30, 2023.
Obiena’s triumph in the pole vault event represents the first gold medal in athletics for the Philippines in 37 years since Lydia de Vega’s victory in the 100 meters at the Seoul Asian Games. It also signifies the first athletics medal of any color in 29 years since Elma Muros’ bronze achievement in the long jump event at the 1994 Hiroshima Games.
Among Obiena’s fellow training partners under Petrov, China’s Huang Bokai and Saudi Arabia’s Hussain al Hizam recorded jumps of 5.65 meters, with Huang claiming the silver on countback.
“We pushed through. I think we were able to do what we needed to do and bring back the goal for the country, which is the most important thing. No complaints about that. And I think you guys have also made it pretty clear. You know the pressure’s a privilege. Thank you. It’s a privilege to be able to be in this position where the whole country is literally expecting (you to win),” said the World Championships silver medalist and the sole Asian man to have cleared the 6.00-meter mark.