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EJ crushes SEAG opposition

EJ Obiena vaults his way to his third Southeast Asian Games gold medal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Photo by MOHD RASFAN / AFP

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia—Ernest John Obiena put on a show and a clinic on world-class pole-vaulting Monday to win the gold medal in the 32nd Southeast Asian Games at the Morodok Techo National Stadium.

When it was all over Obiena, rated No. 3 in the world, had reset the SEA Games mark with an effort of 5.65 meters despite the rainy and windy conditions and bagged his third gold in the event stretching back to 2019 in the Philippines.

In Hanoi last year, Obiena also blew away the opposition by setting a record of 5.46 meters, figures that pale in comparison to his personal-best of 5.94 meters which he recorded when he placed third in the 2022 world championships in Eugene, Oregon.

While he celebrated his recent triumph, Obiena took off his voguish competition shoes and told scribes of his plans.

“This is going to be auctioned off to raise some funds for kids,” Obiena, 27, said, pointing to a group of young pole-vaulting enthusiasts in Tuguegarao, Cagayan, as prospective beneficiaries.

“Hopefully, it will raise enough funds to buy some pits for a province in the Philippines. We need more pole vaulters in the Philippines.”

“To anyone’s listening, it’s up for grabs. All money, all proceeds will go to buying a new pole vault pit or second-hand pole vault pit somewhere in the province.”

“I’ve seen a kid jump with a fiberglass pole but he’s standing on sawdust. Tuguegarao. Hopefully, we raise enough funds for this,” he said.

Despite the downpour that evening, Obiena hardly faltered as he broke his previous SEA Games record four times.

Obiena admitted raising the bar higher this SEA Games was a bit risky considering he is still nursing an ankle injury.

“I twisted my ankle about a week ago and we kinda risked it. We tried to go to the SEA Games and hope everything works out,” Obiena said.

“It was a risk but a calculated one.”

Obiena’s closest pursuers from Thailand could only do 5.20 meters to finish second and third.

Next up for Obiena is the Irena Szewinska Memorial in Bydgoszcz in Poland on 6 June.

Meanwhile, the shoes are now up for sale.

Takers, anyone?

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