Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association president Philip Ella Juico expressed confidence that the country will end its 85-year Olympic medal drought in athletics, courtesy of rising pole vault athlete Ernest John Obiena.
In the five tournaments he competed in, the 25-year-old Obiena had three podium finishes, including a pair of gold medals in separate meets in Germany.
Over the weekend, Obiena set a new national indoor record of 5.86 meters in bagging the silver in the Orlen Cup held in Lodz, Poland.
The inspiring outcome has made a believer out of Juico on the chances of Obiena giving Philippine track and field its first Olympic medal since Miguel White clinched the bronze in the men’s 400-meter hurdles during the 1936 Berlin Games.
“Without being over confident, we are very bullish about his chances. The past few weeks had been an indication of where he’s headed for, given the new things that he’s doing together with his coach and therapist. It’s a combination of talent, hard work, and technology, and they’re using this in the right amount and in the right quantity just like a recipe for a good meal,” stressed the athletics chief during the Philippine Sportswriters Association online Forum on Tuesday.
“He’s very confident, he’s very upbeat about his chances,” said Juico of Obiena.
The son of national coach Emerson Obiena and handled by Ukrainian Olympic gold medalist Vitaly Petrov, Obiena will see action again in the Copernicus Cup on Feb. 17 also in Poland, and then participate in one more event to close out his indoor campaigns.
Outside of Obiena, three other Filipino tracksters are trying to qualify to the Tokyo Games in Eric Cray, Kristina Knott, and Natalie Uy.
Cray just competed in two tournaments in Alabama last month and is set to see action in a Texas meet.
Knott, meanwhile, is currently in Orlando for a Feb. 21 track meet in Arkansas before entering a two-month bubble in Austin, Texas where she will join events that are solely confined within the Texas area and nearby states.
Juico describes Uy as the one who has an outside chance to qualify since the lady pole vaulter is currently recuperating from a wrist injury.
A fourth one in William Morrison chose not to compete in any qualifying meets and instead, will concentrate in the coming Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam, according to Juico.
“He’s fixing a personal problem that requires his attention. He officially told us he’ll just concentrate to make it to the SEA Games and attempt to do it in the Paris Olympics in 2024,” said the former chairman of the Philippine Sports Commission during the session presented by San Miguel Corp., Go For Gold, MILO, Amelie Hotel Manila, Braska Restaurant, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation.
Deadline to meet the qualifying standard for athletics is by end of June, added Juico in the forum powered by Smart and Upstream Media as official webcast partner.
But Patafa is certainly putting its bet on Obiena.
“Sabi nga nila hope springs eternal and we always dream of that with EJ there (podium),” said Juico. “Kung meron pang award ceremony (because of the pandemic), I saw already an image of him receiving the gold medal, the Philippine flag going up, and people teary-eyed about this.”