BHUBANESWAR, India—Ernest John Obiena finally broke the 8-year medal drought of the Philippines in the Asian Athletics Championships.
Obiena soared to a height of 5.50m in his last attempt to snatch the bronze medal in the biennial continental championships with Ding Bangchao of China taking gold and Masaki Ejima of Japan settling for silver.
Both Ding and Ejima have identical 5.65m performances, but the Chinese had fewer attempts to take the top spot.
The last time the Philippines won a medal in the championships was in 2009 in Guangzhou, China, when Marestella Torres leapt to a distance of 6.68m.
Obiena flew all the way from Formia, Italy where he has been training under the tutelage of legendary pole vault coach Ukranian Vitaly Petrov. He will resume his training in Italy until the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games in August.
“I will have to resume my final phase of training with coach Vitaly before I fly back to Manila in August. We still have so many aspects of my performance to polish, but I am very happy with what I have achieved so far. I hope I was able to make the Philippines proud,” said the 21-year-old vaulter who took a leave of absence from his studies to concentrate on his preparation for the SEA Games.
Obiena is now regarded as the shoo-in to win the SEA Games gold medal in the pole vault event. Patsapong Amsam-ang of Thailand managed only to clear 5.40m.
Other standouts from the national squad who gave remarkable performances were Anfernee Lopena, who advanced to the semifinal round of the 100m. The event will be held at 8:50 p.m. Manila time.
Lopena managed to move to the semis with his 10.86s clocking. He is one of the members of the 4x100m quartet, which set a new Philippine record during the Hong Kong Intercity Athletics Championships last June 25.
Sunang, meanwhile, struggled to get her mark in the women’s long jump and settled for fifth place with a 6.20m jump on her third attempt. Sunang is gearing up to regain her long jump title in the coming SEA Games. She owns the SEA Games record of 6.71m while her Philippine record stands at 6.72m. Sunang made the podium thrice in long jump in the Asian Championships, grabbing bronze in 2002, silver in 2005, and gold in 2009. Bui Thi Thu of Vietnam took the gold in this year’s edition with a 6.54m jump.
The next major competition in the offing for the national squad is the Pre-SEA Games Malaysia Open from July 16-18. Upon the return of the members of the national squad from HKSI, the entire athletics team is set to integrate and resume training at the PSC training camp in Baguio City.
“The whole idea is to capitalize on the winning momentum generated from all the competitions participated in by the team and the camaraderie built from the months of training together as a team,”said PATAFA president Philip Juico.
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