HANGZHOU—Ernest John “EJ” Obiena made it look so easy in clinching the Philippines’ first gold medal not only in the Asian Games that lasted 37 years but also in this 19th edition of the quadrennial continental competition on Saturday night at a packed 80,000-seat Hangzhou Olympic Centre Stadium.
Obiena, the world No. 2, displayed on the Asian stage why he’s the continent’s best, beating 11 of his opponents many of them falling by the wayside one after the other as they paled against the world-class Filipino athletes.
“Our country needed it. I wanted it and it’s my job to bring it,” Obiena said as he prepared for the medal ceremony.
“We pushed through and we were able to do what we needed to do and bring back the gold for the country, which is the most important thing,” said Obiena, who was with his dad Emerson Obiena, legendary Ukranian coach Vitaly Petrov and psyshio Antonio Gugloiotta in making games history.
Obiena’s 5.90 meters is the new record and his gold medal wasn’t only the first for Team Philippines which had one silver and six bronze medals to show at sundown Saturday, but it was also the Tondo boy’s first in the Asian Games.
The late Lydia de Vega Mercado was the last to win a gold in athletes in the women’s 100m at the Seoul 1986 games. Obiena’s athletics medal in the games was also the first since Elma Muros Posadas clinched bronze in Busan 2002.
Obiena submitted an initial height of 5.45m, but opted for 5.55 which he cleared with ease. He went for 5.75m, the old Asian Games record, but missed after his first attempt, complaining to the jury about his specs on the bar posts’ distance from the landing mat.
Obiena had no difficulty at 5.75m after that and when almost all of his opponents ran out of tries, he went for 5.90—which, the same, he cleared with ease.
China’s Huang Bokai bagged silver with 5.65m while Saudi Arabia’s Hussain Al Hizam bagged bronze with 5.65.
“EJ Obiena is a superstar,” said Hizam, a best buddy of Obiena at their Formia training camp. “He helps me a lot in training.”
Image credits: Nonie Reyes