EJ Obiena: Redefining Asia’s Pole Vaulting

 Margarette Joelly C. Nunez ||

Photo Credits: ABS-CBN News

“We’re getting there.”

The Philippines’ very own EJ Obiena showcases his prowess as this generation’s leading Asian pole vaulter as he shatters records left and right. An upcoming sensation, Obiena has represented the country in various international leagues such as the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paris Diamond League, where he earned a podium spot. 

Not only is he known to be an upright individual for speaking with officials about his case in Tokyo, Obiena also serves as an inspiration to all as he lives his father’s dream in his career. This then begs the question, how was he molded to redefine Asia’s pole vaulting, given his current blooming success?

“The facts of the matter are simple: I still love the sport of pole vaulting. I still love representing my great country. I still love competing. I still know I can win. You can draw your own conclusions from this. I will be back, and I will be back to win,” Obiena expressed in an interview after finishing 11th in his maiden Olympic stint.

Growing up with track and field athletes like his father— who was also a pole vaulter— it was undeniable that Obiena would follow in their footsteps. At 8, Obiena pursued track and field, participating in 100 and 400-meter hurdles events. When he was 16, he shifted back to pole vaulting, for which he was granted a scholarship at the University of Santo Tomas, pursuing an engineering degree. He then represented the university at the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP).

With his career swiftly progressing, Obiena persistently surpassed his own records. He obtained a silver medal in the 2015 Southeast Asian Games (5.25 meters), then a gold medal at the 2016 Philippine National Games Finals (5.47 meters). In addition, he secured a spot at the Tokyo Olympic Games by surpassing the qualifying standard of 5.80 meters; he placed 11th at the finals with 5.70 meters.

At present, his record currently stands at 5.93 meters— a new Asian record in the pole vault— which he set at the International Golden Roof Challenge in Innsbruck, Austria on September 12, 2021.

“I believe … that if I truly believe I am right, I would fight for it,” Obiena stated. “When you truly believe you’re right, there should be a right way to explain it. There’s always a right way to fight for it.”

Indeed, to achieve such a peak in one’s career requires a mentality and courage that perseveres despite the odds.

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