Pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena cleared 5.50 meters to seize a silver medal in the recent International Athletic Meeting in Velenje, Slovenia.
A strong gold-medal contender in the Southeast Asian Games, the 6-foot-2 Obiena is seeking to hurdle the 5.70-meter world standard in men’s pole vault and perform better in the forthcoming IAAF World Championships in London on Aug. 4-13.
EJ, a second-generation athlete, displayed unusual tenacity and mental toughness by slugging it alone with top world-caliber vaulters as his legendary Ukranian coach Vitaly Petrov was away accompanying his training partner Olympic gold medalist Thiago Braz.
His father-coach Emerson Obiena, meanwhile, was unable to join him owing to some logistics limitations.
During his competition in Poland, the younger Obiena also went solo and had to walk almost 2 kilometers with his 30-kg pole bag from his billeting hotel to the airport.
EJ is currently on his 6-month training in the IAAF Pole Vault Training Center in Formia, Italy with Petrov and now joined by his father-coach Emerson.
PATAFA chief Philip Juico expressed optimism with Obiena’s SEA games gold medal chances.
“With his recent 5.50m performance, EJ is now the runaway favorite to win the pole vault gold medal in the upcoming SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur,’’ said Juico. The SEA record stands at 5.30m.