PH Olympian profiles: Two world champions, a top-notch pole vaulter and a promising rower

Published July 18, 2021, 9:01 AM

by Kristel Satumbaga-Villar

EJ OBIENA (athletics)

EJ Obiena

This Tokyo Olympics could be the year for athletics as pole vaulter EJ Obiena is among the favorites to win a medal for the Philippines. The 25-year-old Tondo native aims to become the second Filipino from the sport to win an Olympic medal following Simeon Toribio’s bronze-medal feat in men’s high jump at the 1932 Los Angeles Games. Ranked No. 6 in the world, Obiena hopes his successful outdoor season would translate a podium finish in the Games, where he will be up against world record holder Armand Duplantis of Sweden, reigning Olympic champion Thiago Braz of Brazil, three-time world indoor champion Renaud Lavillenie of France, and two-time world champion Sam Kendricks of the United States, among others. He holds the national record of 5.87 meters he posted at an outdoor event in Poland last month.

CARLOS YULO (gymnastics)

Carlos Yulo

All eyes will be on Carlos Yulo as he aims for another historic feat at the Tokyo Olympics. Not only he seeks for the country’s first Olympic gold medal, but the diminutive 21-year-old also targets to become the first Filipino gymnast to make it to the Olympic podium. Based in Japan for the past years, Yulo hopes to maintain his status as the world’s best in the floor exercise after becoming the first Filipino and first male Southeast Asian to become a world champion in 2019. Aside from his pet event, the pride of Manila also aims for podium finishes in other apparatus particularly in the vault and parallel bars.


Cris Nievarez

Rower Cris Nievarez shoots for the stars when he debuts in the Tokyo Olympics. At 21, he is only the third Filipino rower to qualify to the Games after Ed Maerina (1988 Seoul) and Benjie Tolentino (2000 Sydney). No Asian has won the gold in his event, the men’s single sculls, but Nievarez vows to make the most out of his qualification. European and Oceania rowers are among the heavy favorites in this event, with athletes from New Zealand, Croatia and Czech Republic taking the podium in the 2016 Rio Games.


Nesthy Petecio

Boxing has been the country’s source of gold in international competitions and Nesthy Petecio hopes to deliver one at the Tokyo Olympics. The 29-year-old world champion is one of the four Filipino fighters seeking to eclipse the country’s best Olympic finish in the sport courtesy of Anthony Villanueva (1964 Tokyo) and Onyok Velasco (1996 Atlanta). Competing in the women’s featherweight (57kgs), the Davao del Sur native will be up against a stacked field composed of top Asian qualifier Li Yu-ting of Chinese Taipei, 2018 Commonwealth Games champion Skye Nicolson of Australia, Russian Liudmila Vorontsova – the same rival she beat for the gold medal at the world championships.