EJ Obiena relied upon to end PHL medal drought in Asian Games


The Philippines aims to end a three-decade medal drought in athletics in the coming Hangzhou 19th Asian Games, according to national coaches Isidro Del Prado and Dario De Rosas.

Both coaches said world No. 2 pole vaulter EJ Obiena is the country’s best bet to finally win the country’s first athletics Asian Games medal since 1994 in Hiroshima where Elma Muros Posadas bagged bronze in women’s long jump.

The Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) is pinning its hopes on the broad shoulders of the 27-year-old Obiena, who clinched a silver medal showing in the world athletics championships in Budapest last month.

“Our victory will be EJ in pole vault,” Del Prado told the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum Tuesday at the Conference Hall of the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex.

Obiena has yet to medal in the Asian Games. He debuted with a seventh place finish as still a nobody in 2018 in Palembang but improved dramatically after that and is now behind world pole vault wonder Armand Duplantis.

The PATAFA is fielding 13 athletes in Hangzhou and has set a modest finish for the rest.

“We’re ready and we feel a medal is in the offing,” De Rosas—who believes his protégé, long jumper Janry Ubas, could clinch a medal—told the session presented by San Miguel Corp., Philippine Sports Commission, Milo, Philippine Olympic Committee and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.

Ubas, 29, won the men’s long jump gold in the Cambodia Southeast Asian Games last May and bagged bronze in heptathlon at the Asian Indoor Athletics Championships in Kazakshtan early this year.

He also competed in tournaments in Italy and Finland where he won gold medals.

Ubas is also the national record holder in long jump with 8.08 meters, which De Rosas believes would at least give the Misamis Oriental bet a shot at the bronze should he equal or surpass his personal  best.

“Hopefully, if he leaps to that number, he could medal,” said De Rosas, who also coaches Sarah Dequinan (heptathlon) and Ronnie Malipay (triple jump).

Del Prado—anchor of the famed “Bicol Express” 4×400 meters men’s relay team in the 1980s—said it’s going to be a tough task for the quartet of Filipino-Americans Umajesty Williams, Frederick Ramirez, Joyme Squita and Michael Carlo Del Prado to achieve a podium finish.

“India, Japan, China and Sri Lanka are strong in the 4×4 so I told them to give their best to break the Philippine record (3:06.47),” he said.

The quartet won gold in the Cambodia SEA Games, but the Asiad is an entirely different tournament.

“Hopefully they make the finals,” said Del Prado, adding the semifinals is slated on October 3 and the finals the following day in Hangzhou.

Also competing in Hangzhou are Asian championships gold winner Robyn Brown (400m hurdles), John Tolentino (110m hurdles), Eric Cray (400m hurdles), Kristina Knott (100m and 200m) and William Morrison (shot put).

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