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Obiena reaffirms status among world’s elite; cash windfall seen

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Filipino ace Ernest John Obiena bolstered his status as one of the world’s elite in the men’s pole vault with his bronze-medal finish in the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon on Monday (Philippine time).

Obiena’s 5.94-meter leap was even good for second place, as he tied with eventual silver medalist American Chris Nilsen, but he settled for the bronze via countback.

His bronze was the first medal of any color by a Filipino in the world tournament.

The 26-year-old Manileno got his score on his second attempt. He tried to breach the 6.0 mark but failed in three attempts.

Bronze medalist Ernest John Obiena of Team Philippines poses during the medal ceremony for the Men’s Pole Vault of the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. AFP

Meanwhile, Olympic champion and world no. 1 Armand Duplantis was simply unparalleled as he cleared 6.21 meters to bag the gold.

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Obiena’s effort was enough to erase his own personal and Asian record of 5.93 meters he set in September last year at the Golden Roof Challenge in Innsbruck, Austria.

Normally, a bronze medal won in a world championship is worth P200,000 in incentives under the Republic Act 10699 or the expanded National Athletes, Coaches and Trainers Benefits and Incentives Act of 2001.

But there’s also a provision that “Competitions granting prize money shall not be included.”

This year’s World Athletics has decided to incentivize the top seven athletes in the individual and team (relay) competitions, with the gold winner receiving US$70,000, silver $36,000, and bronze $22,000.

In this case, Obiena is set to receive roughly P1.2 million in prize money from the World Athletics, formerly known as the International Association of Athletics Federations.

Philippine Sports Commission Executive Director and Officer-In-Charge Atty. Guillermo Iroy Jr., said they will wait for the report of the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association on the matter so that the government agency can evaluate the amount of incentives that can be given to Obiena.

“EJ will definitely have a lot of incentives since hindi lang naman sa RA yan. We will wait for the certification of the record-breaking report so the board can act on it,” said Iroy, the most senior among PSC organic officials.

Last year, the PSC board, led by former PSC chair Butch Ramirez granted Obiena a P1.5-million incentive for setting a new Asian mark.

Under the same Incentives Act, “national athletes and other athletes who surpass Philippine record or ranking in any measurable international sports competition shall be given cash incentives, the amount of which may be determined by the PSC.”

Obiena’s feat came just after karateka Junna Tsukii’s gold-medal finish in the World Games and the Philippine national women’s football team’s historic victory in the Asean Football Championship.

“It is with pride and glory that our national athletes keep winning in international competitions which will increase the next generation of their level of enthusiasm to also win medals,” said Iroy.

“The government support will always be there in partnership and collaboration with their NSA and this is also aligned with what our President Bong Bong Marcos said recently in Malacanang during the courtesy call of PNWFT (Philippine national women’s football team),” Iroy added.

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