SEVEN months after sustaining an Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury on August 18, 2017, the day before leaving for the 2018 Kuala Lumpur Southeast Asian Games, six months after a surgery to repair his injured knees and six months before the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association national pole vaulter, Ernest John Obiena, is back in harness.
Obiena’s absence from the track scene took seven months and it is therefore not surprising that the 22-year-old Electronics Communications Engineering student at the University of Sto. Tomas is just raring to go.
Obiena, who is one of the country’s top bets for a podium finish at the Jakarta games, competed for the first time since his surgery in September last year at the Nantou Pole Vault Meet in Taiwan.
In his first international competition, Obiena vaulted to a respectable 4.91 meters, opting for a 12-step approach, much shorter than his usual 18-step approach.
In his report to PATAFA president, Dr. Philip Ella Juico, Obiena stated that “he took it easy by testing the different vaulting poles he brought with him to Taiwan and just wanted to get the feel of international competition again. This is part of our training plan and eventually I will do 18 steps.”
Obiena, who holds the Philippine record of 5.61 meters in the pole vault and was a bronze medalist in the 2017 Asian Athletics Championship at Bhubaneshwar, India.
As part of his Asian Games preparations, EJ took part in a local meet over the weekend, after the Taiwan trip and vaulted to a height of 5.10 meters to the delight of a crowd that gathered at the Philsports track oval to see for themselves how Obiena would fare after what others thought was a career-ending injury.
Hampered by, among other others, an uphill runway at the decades-old track oval, Obiena stated that his Ukranian coach, Vitaly Petrox, based at the International Association of Athletics Federeation’s pole vault center in Formia, Italy, was happy with his progress after seeing the video tapes of his performance.
“Don’t worry, you’re doing just fine,” Obiena quoted Petrov as having commented on his fifth-place finish in Taiwan and on the weekend local meet.
Obiena said that Petrov had asked him to join another world class vaulter being coached by Petrov, Thiago Braz, the 25-year-old Brazilian who owns the current Olympic record of 6.03 meters, in meets in Europe in May.
After the May competitions, Petrov asnd Obiena will proceed to the Olympic training center at Chuala Vista in California and finally to Formia, Italy for more training and competitions in Europe before leaving for Jakarta in early August.