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Obiena aims to end season with Asiad gold

HANGZHOU, China — EJ Obiena aims to end his 2023 season with a victory in the 19th Asian Games.

The 27-year-old Obiena said the ongoing quadrennial meet here will be his last tourney for the season before plotting his program for 2024 with the hopes of emerging victorious in the Paris Olympics next year.

It’s been a very successful season for the Filipino superstar.

Aside from winning the gold medal in the Southeast Asian Games in Phnom Penh last May, Obiena also made a successful campaign in Europe, propelling him to the No. 2 spot in the World Athletics ranking behind world record holder Armand Duplantis of Sweden.

But what made his bid this year more remarkable was when he beat Duplantis in the Brussels Diamond League after clearing 5.91 meters.

He also set the Asian record of 6.0 meters twice — the first in Norway in June and the second in Hungary in August — to emerge as the most feared vaulter in the continent.

Still, setting the Asian Games record and winning the gold medal remain on top of his agenda for this year.

“We will see in a few days if I fulfill what I was supposed to do, that it will be a good outing,” said Obiena, who is competing in the Asian Games at the Hangzhou Olympic Centre here at press time.

“This season I’ve been able to so far, knock on wood, hold to what I said I would do, win the things that I’m supposed to win, and jump the heights that I was supposed to jump.

“It’s been pretty good. Nothing out of the ordinary, I haven’t surprised myself yet but no surprises are still okay. I have high expectations.”

Despite being the best vaulter in Asia, Obiena is not running out of motivation to dominate.

For one, he faced Seito Yamamoto of Japan, who set the Asiad record of 5.70 meters when he grabbed the gold medal in the Jakarta edition of the Asian Games in 2018.

During that meet, Obiena had a frustrating performance as he was coming off an anterior cruciate ligament injury that left him settling for a forgettable seventh-place finish.

But Obiena’s eyes are fixed on one thing: The Paris Olympics.

“I would want a medal but I would want to win,” Obiena said.

“I would want to get a gold, it’s something that I believe is still doable, it’s achievable.”

“Success would be winning a medal. Bigger success if I win.”

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