By ADRIAN STEWART CO
Ernest John Obiena clinched Team Philippines’ first gold medal in the 19th Asian Games as he ruled the men’s pole vault event at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre in Hangzhou, China on Saturday night, September 30.
The former University of Santo Tomas standout successfully cleared 5.75 meters in his second attempt to take home the gold and broke the 30-year Asiad medal drought for Philippine athletics.
Obiena, the first Filipino athlete to earn qualification for the 2024 Paris Olympics, skipped the previous rounds before making his first jump in 5.55 meters, which he cleared in one try.
The 6-foot-3 Obiena skipped 5.65 meters before making a jump of 5.75 meters, where he was unsuccessful on his first try before securing the gold medal on his second attempt.
With the gold medal already in the bag, Obiena attempted to reset his personal best record of 6.00 meters as he tried to overcome the 6.02-meter mark, but he was unsuccessful in three attempts.
Finishing with a silver medal in the competition is hometown bet Huang Bokai, while Saudi Arabia’s Hussain Al-Hizam settled for the bronze medal as both competitors failed to clear the 5.75-meter mark.
Meanwhile, Filipino fighter Carlo Paalam joined Eumir Marcial in the boxing competition quarterfinals after beating Uulu Munarbek Seiitbek of Kyrgyzstan in a back-and-forth fight at the Hangzhou gymnasium on Saturday.
The 25-year-old Paalam, winner of a silver medal in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, needed a strong finishing kick to pull off the hard-earned 4-1 win in the round-of-16 of the men’s 54-kilogram class.
“Matalino ring maglaro. Ginagamit ‘yung tangkad at experience niya,” the Filipino said of Seiitbek, a bronze medal winner in this year’s World Championship in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
“Dun kami nagbe-based sa skill at sa style. Matalino talaga,” he added.
Paalam only became the second Filipino fighter after Marcial to reach the quarterfinals as the two try to carry the country’s hopes of earning the first-ever Asiad gold in 13 years and earn an outright passage to the Paris Olympics next year./ASC, WDJ