Filipino pole vaulter EJ Obiena made history on Saturday as he clinched the first gold medal for the Philippines in the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China. Obiena also shattered the Asian Games record in the men’s pole vault event with a clearance of 5.90 meters, surpassing the previous mark of 5.75 meters set by Japan’s Seito Yamamato in 2018.
Obiena, who is currently ranked second in the world in men’s pole vault, dominated the competition from start to finish, clearing every height on his first attempt until he reached 5.90 meters. He then attempted to break his own Asian record of six meters by raising the bar to 6.02 meters, but failed to clear it in three tries.
Nevertheless, Obiena was ecstatic with his performance, which earned him the coveted gold medal and a spot in the history books. He said he was proud to represent the Philippines and dedicate his victory to his fellow Filipinos who have been supporting him throughout his career.
“I’m very happy and grateful for this moment. It’s been a long journey and a lot of sacrifices, but it’s all worth it. This is for the Philippines, for my family, for my coaches, and for everyone who believed in me,” Obiena said in an interview after the event.
Obiena’s gold medal ended a week-long drought for the Philippine delegation, which had only collected one silver and six bronze medals before his historic feat¹. He also ended a 29-year medal drought for Philippine athletics in the Asian Games, as the last Filipino to win a medal in the sport was Elma Muros-Posadas, who bagged a bronze in the women’s long jump in 1994.
Obiena is the first and only Filipino so far to qualify for next year’s Paris Olympics¹. He is also the first Filipino to win medals in two consecutive editions of the World Athletics Championships, where he won bronze in 2022 and silver in 2023.
Obiena’s coach, Vitaly Petrov, praised his ward for his remarkable achievement and said he has more potential to improve and challenge the world’s best pole vaulters.
“He is a very talented and hardworking athlete. He has shown that he can compete with anyone in the world. He still has room to grow and I’m confident that he will reach higher heights in the future,” Petrov said.