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Filipino pole vaulter EJ Obiena overcomes obstacles to break Asian Record with PH 1st World Athletics medal

EJ Obiena PH 1st World Athletics medal
EJ Obiena cleared the height that reset the Asian record, Philippine national record, and his all-time personal best record. Photo from Obiena social media post.

Filipino champion athlete Ernest John “EJ Obiena” has overcome obstacles on his way to breaking the Asian Record in pole vaulting and winning the Philippines’ first-ever World Athletics medal – giving the Southeast Asian nation the bragging rights as the third-best nation in the world.

Obiena jumped the bronze-winning height of 5.94 meters in the pole vault final at the World Athletics meet in Oregon, U.S.A., to again break the Asian Record of 5.93m which the Filipino himself set in historic fashion last year in Austria after deleting the record of 5.92m held by Kazakhstan’s Igor Potapovich for 23 years. The new height also broke the national record he reset to 5.91m in France in March and is now his all-time-best personal record.

The World Athletics Top 10 pole vaulter’s new record made after his second attempt, earned him the bronze medal – the first podium finish for a Filipino at the World competition which ended on July 24 (July 25 Philippine time).

EJ Obiena made the Philippines the 3rd best nation in pole vault. World Athletics video screengrab.

The height was also achieved by American Chris Nilsen in one try, giving the hometown bet the silver. Reigning Olympic champion Armand Duplantis of Sweden earned the gold with a new world record of 6.21m.

World Athletics praised Obiena for his record-breaking pole vaulting. “Obiena who missed out on the final in Doha three years ago, returned to the world stage with the performance of his life and said: ‘I did not expect that I would jump that high. And I would not think that it would actually take that high to win a medal. So I am definitely happy.’”

WATCH the successful attempt here:


Overcoming Obstacles

The Filipino athlete’s record-breaking feat came after overcoming various obstacles that threatened to stop the 26-year-old from carrying the Philippine flag in international events.

Obiena had to halt his activities ahead of the end of the athletic season in 2021 after the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) stopped his funding over liquidation issues – a charge that the national Commission on Audit eventually dismissed on March 31, 2022, after finding that the liquidation of his training expenses was actually in order and that it has not issued any Notice of Suspension nor Notice of Disallowance.

The five-month-long struggle took its toll on Obiena’s career as he missed his first World Indoor Championship earlier this year while working on clearing his name.

Obiena would have also missed defending his championship title at the Southeast Asian Games but, fortunately, the COA clearance and the Philippine Olympic Committee’s intervention allowed him to compete, be the national flag bearer, and eventually win the gold for the nation.

Obiena also contracted COVID-19 in early June and had to miss two Diamond League events in Norway (Oslo Bislett Games) and France (Meeting de Paris).

The Filipino star athlete eventually recovered and returned to the field to successfully defend his champion title at the Taby Pole Vault Gala in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Filipino athlete again faced another hurdle as he was stopped from entering the United States for the World Athletics competition and detained for 12 hours by the US Department of Homeland Security agents following a whistleblower tip that he was a fugitive from the Philippines because of the PATAFA claim.

The security flag over his already-cleared liquidation issues was eventually overturned and Obiena received an apology from the US Immigration officials. His legal team has been working with the state officials to investigate the fake tip while the athlete focused on his competition.

“It was an unfortunate incident to be held in detention without fully understanding the basis,” said Obiena about his detention ahead of his record-breaking feat. “It definitely threw me off a bit. But it worked out. I’m back in training and focused on doing my best for my country.” As sports history has recorded, Obiena kept his promise.

EJ Obiena took to social media to recall his journey and thank his team and supporters ahead of the Oregon final day. “There is not many people that have experienced what I had and I will forever remember and bring this with me to wherever this journey may be,” he wrote.

SEND CONGRATULATIONS in the comments below to Filipino pole vaulter EJ Obiena for overcoming various obstacles to break the Asian Record anew with the Philippines’ 1st-ever World Athletics medal!

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Angie Quadra-Balibay
Angie Quadra-Balibay
Angie is a self-confessed reformed news critic who vows she has finally found infinite value in delivering the good news. She teaches students of all ages how to make the important interesting for audiences across media platforms.

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