After a whirlwind 2023 that catapulted EJ Obiena to world number 2, the Filipino superstar pole vaulter has finally earned the right to rest.
In a matter of almost a year, he nabbed a silver in the World Athletics Championships, earned a spot in the Paris Olympics, and smashed the Asian Games records.
“Oh, I’m resting,” said Obiena after his record-smashing, history-making performance at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium. There he delivered the Philippines’ first – and, so far, only – gold in the 19th Asian Games on Saturday night.
When asked if he’s preparing for the Paris Olympics after the games, Obiena expressed his determination to rest. “I’m not thinking about it (Olympics) now.”
The 27-year-old Obiena captured the pole vault gold with his record leap of 5.75 meters, which he further shattered at 5.9 meters. He attempted to break his own 6.0-meter record by setting the bar at 6.02 meters as a gift to his coach Vitaly Petrov.
However, he couldn’t clear it in three attempts.
Nevertheless, Obiena accomplished his goal of winning an Asian Games gold. It also marked the Philippines’ first gold in athletics in 37 years since Lydia de Vega’s 100-meter victory in the Seoul Asiad.
It also represented the first athletics medal of any color in 29 years since Elma Muros’ bronze feat in the long jump competition at the 1994 Hiroshima games.
“I’m very happy that he pulled through. I can imagine the pressure on EJ because of all the expectations, but he pulled through. It seemed like a routine for him, and it’s a good routine. Parang nagiging mindset na niya to win every tournament he joins,” said athletics president Terry Capistrano.
“And that’s very good; let him rest for now, and then after Christmas, we can start thinking of Paris. Again, congratulations to all of us. Hindi naman ako ang tumalon, but I’m very happy,” Capistrano added. “And this is not just about athletics; it’s for our campaign here in general.
“I hope we win more medals in the other sports. Sana madagdagan pa ang gold natin or the silver or the bronze.”
Obiena joined the exclusive 6-meter club at the Sparebanken Vest Bergen Jump Challenge in Norway on June 10, 2023. A month later, Obiena became the first Filipino to qualify for the 2024 Olympics after clearing the Olympic standard of 5.82 meters at the Bauhaus Galan in Stockholm, Sweden.
Other highlights of Obiena’s busy 2023 include a title in the Cambodia SEA Games; the Müller Indoor Grand Prix Birmingham crown with his 5.82 meters; the Orlen Copernicus Cup Torun gold with his 5.91 meters; the World Athletics Championships, where he secured the silver medal with a clearance of 5.94 meters; and the European Athletics Championships, where he finished fourth in the final, clearing 5.85 meters.