Sports

Who Is EJ Obiena, the Philippine Pole Vaulter Gunning For Gold?

He's the only Asian competing in men's pole vault.
IMAGE JEROME ASCAÑO
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Philippine pole vaulter and Olympic favorite EJ Obiena is on his way to the finals.

The 25-year-old athlete had one of the strongest streaks in the qualifying rounds of group A. After clearing the 5.75 meter jump, he is now part of the top 12 performers that will head on to the finals, which will take place on August 3.

He will now go head to head with the representatives from the U.S., France, Australia, Greece, Germany, Sweden, Netherlands, Brazil, and Poland. 

EJ Obiena, Philippine Record Breaker

EJ Obiena is a consistent record breaker, breaking every national pole vault record to date, many of which he set himself. He currently holds the record for the highest pole vault accomplished by a Filipino athlete.

He also broke the Asian Athletics Championships record with a 5.71-meter pole vault in 2019. His personal best, and the latest Philippine record, is 5.87 meters, which he achieved on June 30 while in Poland. This was just a few days after made another record of 5.85 meters on June 12 in Germany.

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Three-Time Gold Medalist

Obiena came in first at two crucial international competitions in 2019: the Asian Championships in Qatar and the Universiade in Italy. He also won the Philippines a gold at the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.

These are the three out of four times EJ has represented the Philippines abroad, and he won gold each time.

He is the Philippines’ best bet to be the first-ever Filipino medalist in athletics, an Olympic category dominated by Olympic powerhouses like the U.S. and France.

He is currently the only Southeast Asian pole vaulter competing in the Olympics, the only Asian to make it to the finals, and the first-ever Filipino to qualify.

Pole Vaulting Family

Outside of his athletic career, Obiena is studying electrical engineering at the University of Santo Tomas. The young athlete was born into a pole vaulting family as both of his parents are members of the Philippine Pole Vault Club. Obiena started pole vaulting at the tender age of six.

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Breaking records appears to be his blood as his father Emerson held a previous national record in pole vaulting. He was also a silver and bronze medalist in the Southeast Asian Games.

Obiena’s father Emerson is one of his coaches, alongside Rohsaan Griffin from the U.S. and Vitaly Petrov from Ukraine. Petrov has trained a number of Olympic gold medalists, including Brazil’s Thiago Braz, who currently holds the Olympic record after clearing 6.03 meters in the 2016 Rio Olympics and bagging first place.

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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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