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EJ Obiena feted in Senate resolution for medal haul amid ‘challenges’


The Senate on Monday adopted a resolution congratulating pole vaulter and Filipino Olympian Ernest John "EJ" Obiena over his "largest and most successful" medal haul.

Senator Pia Cayetano has sponsored 11 resolutions commending the national athlete for ranking as the world's number 3 pole vaulter and Asia's top athlete for the sport.

"In July 2022, EJ made history by winning the first ever medal of the Philippines at the World Athletics Championship in Eugene, Oregon USA...EJ was the only Asian and the first Filipino pole vaulter to win a medal in the World Athletics," Cayetano said in her speech.

"He set a new Asian, national, and personal record after clearing 5.94 meters. For the record, his previous record was 5.93m, tallied in 2021 at the 17th Golden Roof Challenge in Austria. He also broke the Asian Record set by Igor Poptapovich from Kazakhstan, almost 23 years ago. So he broke a 23-year-old record," she added.

Cayetano honored Obiena for hurdling challenges in his career, including his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury causing him to miss the 2017 Southeast Asian games.

"He is where he is today, your honors, because of partly those difficulties he went through, and the Senate is witness to a lot of difficulties that EJ went through. And I do hope that we can help move things forward for EJ, take a look at what he has accomplished in 2022 alone, after there was a bit of a settlement on a lot of issues that EJ had to deal with," she said.

"EJ’s athletic year so far has garnered an impressive medal haul: 12 gold medals, 2 silver medals, and 3 bronze medals, in a span of 8 months. Saan naman tayo nakakita niyan?" she added.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, who heads the National Sports Association for Arnis, also acknowledged Obiena over his "stellar accomplishment" in his recent bouts even though it is not an easy road considering his "rocky patch" with the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA).

"Hindi ko maintindihan ang nangyari sa PATAFA... tsaka na yung mga administrative details that will bug them down. Actually, they shouldn't be bugged down by these administrative details. We should never let our athletes be disturbed by these admin details," the Senate president said.

Although Obiena faced several obstacles in achieving his goals, Zubiri said the "best Asian pole vaulter showed incredible grace and maturity beyond his age rising above challenges and focusing on his goals not only for himself but also for his country."

The Senate president also lauded Obiena for his compassion and respect to his fellow athletes when he donated his reward from the Philippine Sports Commission to late Filipina sprinter Lydia de Vega before the latter passed away.

This "class act" makes Obiena a true sportsman more than bringing home medals from several competitions, Zubiri said.

Calling Obiena an "extraordinary jumper," Senator Jinggoy Estrada, one of the co-sponsors of the resolution, also acknowledged the athlete for keeping his calm and focus even in the midst of a "high-profile controversy."

"What sets our very own Pole Vault champion apart from the others, and what makes his victory even sweeter is the number of challenges he had to overcome to reach this point," he said.

"Hindi po naging madali ang mga pinagdaaan ng batang ito ngayong taon. He had a knee surgery early this year. He contracted COVID in the middle of the year, causing him to miss some competitions. Of course, there is also the high-profile controversy doon sa mga siraulong tao sa PATAFA," Estrada added.

Obiena was removed by PATAFA from the national team pool after allegations of misusing allowance allotted to him. However, the Commission on Audit recently reported that Obiena did not misuse the aid given to him by the government.

In August, the Philippine Sports Commission announced that the pole vaulter was reinstated to the national team.

Obiena personally accepted the adopted resolution during the Senate's session on Monday.

Last week, Obiena returned to the Philippines to rest after his recent podium finishes.

On September 12, Obiena topped the Golden Fly Series in Liechtenstein.

Obiena cleared 5.71 meters to claim the top prize, beating five other competitors. The Asian record holder bested American Olen Tray Oates who settled for second with 5.61 meters, and Austrian Ricardo Klotz for third at 5.51 meters.

Prior to the Liechtenstein tiff, Obiena topped several tournaments, including the Brussels leg of the Diamond League where he defeated Armand Duplantis. In his most recent event, Obiena finished second in ISTAF Berlin.—LDF, GMA News

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