TWO world class Filipino athletes—Olympic champion Hidilyn Diaz-Naranjo and Ernest John “EJ” Obiena—competed in different parts of the world over the weekend and yielded contrasting results.
Obiena clinched bronze on Saturday behind Armand Duplantis and Sam Kendricks in Brussels to show consistency in his sport that in the world of elite pole vaulters, beating each other is more mental rather than physical.
Diaz-Naranjo was in Riyadh and finished outside of the podium in her second competition at 59 kgs, lifting weights way below the gold medal winner from China.
But that’s no cause for alarm for the Philippines’ first Olympic gold medalist.
“It’s still a good performance for Hidilyn because she lifted her Olympic record of 127 kgs in clean and jerk and she finished the competition to keep her rankings,” national weightlifting coach Ramon Solis told BusinessMirror on Sunday.
“I believe she’s preparing for the big tournament,” he said. “The good thing is she didn’t exhaust herself.”
Diaz-Naranjo had a total lift of 224 kgs—97 kgs in snatch and 127 kgs in clean and jerk—to finish seventh behind champion and world No. 1 Shifang Lou of China whose total of 243 kgs was built on 107 in snatch and 136 in clean and jerk.
Ukraine’s Kamila Konotop, the world No. 2, was a far silver medalist at 236 kgs and further back for the bronze was another Chinese, Pei Xinyo, at 232 kgs.
Despite the result, Diaz-Naranjo remained at No. 7 in the rankings for the chase for a berth in the Paris 2024 Olympics—after Lou and Konotop, Colombia’s Yenny Alvarez at No. 3, Chinese-Taipei’s Hsing-Chun Kuo at No. 4, Canada’s Maude Charron at No. 5 and Mexico’s Janeth Gomez at No. 6.
Only the top 10 in each weight category will qualify for the Olympics.
“She’s good at seventh right now, she’s not dislodged but unless she doesn’t compete in three remaining Olympic qualifying tournaments, she won’t qualify for Paris,” said Solis, a national coach since 2002.
“I expect Hidilyn to improve,” added Solis, who’s also in Riyadh with fellow national coaches Richard Augusto and Tony Agustin and Diaz-Naranjo’s husband and coach Julius.
Obiena? His father, former national pole vaulter and now coach Emerson Obiena is awed by his son’s consistency.
“It’s something extraordinary. I never expected that nine years ago [when the younger Obiena was starting his career], but it’s happening now,” Emerson Obiena told BusinessMirror Sunday.
Obiena cleared 5.92 meters for consecutive gold medals in Berlin and Aacehn in Germany last week and in Brussels where he clinched bronze.
He’s bound for the Diamon League final in Eugene, Oregon, where he bagged a bronze medal at last year’s world championships.
“I believe EJ can do more than 6.02 meters hopefully in upcoming tournaments because of his improvement and willingness,” Emerson Obiena said. “During my time, nobody was clearing that kind of height.”
The elder Obiena’s personal best was 4.95 meters, more than a meter below his son’s 6.0 meters which he already cleared twice.