EJ Obiena, Asia’s best pole vaulter, has dominated his season in the past month from bagging multiple gold medals to beating the world’s best.
Rewind the clock to July 2021 and most people would probably not know who EJ Obiena is. While those who followed the local track and field scene knew that he was a fast-rising star in the sport, he wasn’t necessarily a household name. But thanks to a stellar performance at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, EJ quickly became a Filipino athlete to watch out for. True enough, he has lived up to the hype with his performance in the past month alone making him more than worthy of the title as Asia’s best pole vaulter. His success is even more amazing when you consider all the issues and drama he had to deal with.
GETTING GOLD WHILE DEFEATING WORLD’S NO.1
HISTORY for our very own. RT @mushroomzuru: WORLD #3 BEATS WORLD #1 ???— PHSports LiveScores (@LiveScoresPH) September 2, 2022
EJ Obiena clears 5.91 in his third attempt, beating world record holder Armand Duplantis.
WHAT. A. WIN. ?? pic.twitter.com/khlX4axNf0
On September 2, EJ competed in his latest tournament, the Brussels Wanda Diamond League, during the current European circuit. This is just his second season competing in the European circuit, yet he was already blowing most of the competition out of the field. Up until that point, he already bagged four medals, including three gold, two of which were won back-to-back. Needless to say, he had expectations to meet. And just like how high he goes when he vaults, he surpassed those expectations.
EJ, who is currently ranked the world’s No. 3 pole vaulter, was up against Armand Duplantis, the world’s No. 1 and Olympic gold medalist. In the end, EJ won the gold, recording a 5.91 m height on his third attempt, beating Duplantis’ 5.81 m. Not only did EJ bag his fifth straight medal of the season, but the 26-year-old also defeated the world’s best pole vaulter. This marks the first time EJ defeated Armand in a competition. “Core memory” is how EJ described the moment and he isn’t wrong.
He then went on to bag a silver at the Standionfest Berlin 2022 on September 4 with a 5.81 m height. And as truly the most appropriate way to end his hot streak in Europe, EJ bagged a gold medal at the 2022 Golden Fly Liechtenstein on September 11 with a recorded height of 5.71 meters. And just like that, EJ won a total of five gold medals out of a possible seven of the season, and all within three weeks.
Over the past weeks and months, EJ has continuously proved why he is one of the world’s best vaulters. Among his other recent historic feats, the star athlete bagged a bronze medal at the recently concluded World Athletics Championship in Eugene, Oregon, the first ever Filipino to do so. And on his way to his historic podium finish, he recorded a height of 5.94m and beat his own personal record, the national record, and the Asian record.
SUCCESS IN THE FACE OF SCANDAL
With all the wins EJ has been racking up, you would think that he has a wave of support behind him. And while many do cheer him on, he has also faced a series of near career-threatening hurdles. His disagreements with local sporting bodies and other officials have made front page news, almost derailing EJ’s career. Instead of being celebrated, EJ has been mired in scandal, issue, and controversy. It’s honestly shameful how some people treat EJ Obiena, who needed to fight just to clear his name and be able to compete in competitions around the world. Despite all that, he only had one goal in mind: to still be able to represent the Philippines and carry it to soaring heights in the sport.
With his talent, EJ Obiena could have easily decided to play for other countries. But instead, his love for the country is enough for him to stay. Continuously winning while dealing with all that is a sign of EJ’s grit and tenacity as he rose above adversity. But it’s also a reminder that we, especially people in power, should do a better job of supporting athletes. And by athletes, we mean all of them, not just the ones who get TV coverage. To greater heights and more core memories unlocked, EJ.