Emerson Obiena, the father of elite pole vaulter EJ Obiena, hopes that his son will serve as an inspiration for the young generation of athletes who wanted to pursue pole vaulting.
This as the younger Obiena became a major awardee of the 2022 Philippine Sportswriters Association Awards for his excellence in athletics.
Obiena’s parents, Emerson and Jeanette, received the award at the Diamond Hotel in Manila last March 14 on behalf of their son, who is busy training in Italy for future tournaments.
“Ang gusto ko sana maging inspirasyon ‘to para sa mga batang nagsisimula pa lang sa larangan ng sport na ‘to (I hope EJ will serve as an inspiration to the young athletes who are just starting with the sport),” said Emerson, national team coach and a former Southeast Asian Games silver medalist himself. “Hopefully, maging model nila si Ernest and mag-strive sila someday maging katulad din [niya] (Hopefully, Ernest will be a role model for them to strive and become like him).”
In 2021, Obiena, a Tokyo Olympian, reset his outdoor Asian record after leaping past the 5.93 meters to rule the 17th Golden Rooftop Challenge in Innsbruck, Austria last Sept. His feat surpassed Kazakhstan’s Igor Potapovich’s 5.92m indoor record in Stockholm, Sweden in 1998.
Obiena, the No. 5 pole vaulter in the world, failed to reach a podium finish in his Olympic debut after settling for joint 11th. The former University of Santo Tomas standout finished with 5.7m and missed all his attempts at the 5.8m mark to tie with Germany’s Bo Kanda Lita Baehhre.
Just last March 6, the 26-year-old pole vaulter posted a season-best 5.91m to clinch silver medal in the Perch Elite Tour in Rouen, France. He also eclipsed his own national indoor record of 5.86m, which he marked last year at the Orlen Cup in Lodz, Poland.
But these achievements, with Obiena as an example, go to show that Filipinos can have their way in the elite level, said Emerson.
“‘Di natin na-imagine na aabot sa ganitong level ang isang katulad ni EJ (We never imagined EJ being in the elite level),” added the older Obiena. “So tingin ko ‘yong time na ‘yon, especially sa track and field, ‘di natin nakikita na puwede tayong maging dark horse. Pero ngayon andito na (Before, we never saw the track and field to become a dark horse but it’s slowly coming into fruition).
“So it is possible and hopefully, sana ‘yong mga kabataan natin ngayon makita nila na may kakayanan din pala ang mga Pilipino para maging excellent sa ganyang laro (It is possible and hopefully, young athletes will realize that Filipinos have the capability to excel in such sport),” added Emerson.
The younger Obiena, who is still in conflict with the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa), hopes to compete in the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, Vietnam in May despite being excluded from Patafa’s roster.
The embattled EJ will not be competing in the World Athletics Indoor Championships set March 18 to 20 in Belgrade, Serbia, due to non-endorsement as well.