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Nothing but gold — Patafa determined to shine in Paris Olympics


‘We haven’t won an Olympic medal since the time of Miguel White and (Simeon) Toribio so we might as well win in Paris.’

MOHD RASFAN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE ERNEST John Obiena is being groomed to become the first Filipino to win an Olympic medal since Miguel White clinched the bronze in the Berlin Olympics in 1936.

Gold or bust.

The Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association is determined to win its first ever gold medal when the Summer Olympics return to Paris next year.

In a casual conversation with select sportswriters last Wednesday, Patafa president Agapito “Terry” Capistrano made no secret of his willingness to see a Filipino stepping on the medal podium of the Olympics for the first time in nearly 90 years.

The last time a Filipino trackster won an Olympic medal was in 1936 when Filipino-American Miguel White clinched a bronze in the men’s 400-meter run of the Berlin Olympics.

White, however, didn’t get the chance to eventually win an Olympic gold medal as World War II halted the staging of the quadrennial meet in 1940. He passed away two years later due to military action during the Japanese invasion of Manila.

Prior to White, Simeon Toribio handed the Filipinos their first Olympic medal in athletics when he bagged the bronze in the men’s high jump event of the Los Angeles Games in 1932.

Capistrano said he is hoping and praying for a breakthrough in the coming Paris Olympics.

“Well, that’s the idea: To win our first Olympic gold in athletics,” Capistrano, a former sprinter during his college days at De La Salle University, said when asked about the possibility of emerging victorious in the Paris Olympics.

“We haven’t won an Olympic medal since the time of Miguel White and (Simeon) Toribio so we might as well win in Paris. It’s about time for us to win our first gold in athletics because this is one of the two most important sports in the Olympics aside from swimming. I think we have a very good chance with the quality of athletes that we have.”

“My goal in life is to win just one (Olympic) medal before I die. But it has to be a gold (medal).”

Obviously, Capistrano was referring to Ernest John Obiena.

The 28-year-old Obiena is in a perfect position to end the Filipinos’ long medal drought after emerging as the second-best pole vaulter in the world behind Swedish superstar Armand Duplantis.

Obiena had a banner year after breaking new records in the 32nd Southeast Asian Games in Phnom Penh and the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou while joining the prestigious six-meter club when he clinched the gold medal in the Bergen Jump Challenge in Norway in June.

Obiena is only the 28th athlete to breach the six-meter mark since Sergey Bubka, who also trained under the watchful eyes of his coach in Vitaly Petrov, did the trick in 1985.

Only six members of the distinguished club are still active in Duplantis, Obiena, KC Lightfoot and Chris Nilsen of the United States, Sondre Guttormsen of Norway, and Renaud Lavillenie of France. Obiena is the only Asian to surpass the six-meter barrier.

Capistrano expects Obiena to give Duplantis — the world-record holder with a personal best of 6.23 meters — a hard time in Paris.

“He already beat him before,” Capistrano said, stressing that Obiena is capable of duplicating his incredible win over Duplantis in the Brussels leg of the Diamond League in 2022.

“With that win, Obiena created a mental note that he is capable of beating Duplantis and that he can do it again (in the Paris Olympics).”

The Paris Games will be Obiena’s second attempt to win an Olympic medal.

In his Olympic debut in Tokyo, Obiena had a forgettable stint after posting only 5.75 meters to settle for 10th place behind Duplantis, Nilsen and Thiago Braz of Brazil.

Capistrano, however, asserted that if Obiena wins in Paris, he could win again when the Olympics move to Los Angeles in 2028.

“He is now in his prime at 28,” said Capistrano, who has been taking good care of Obiena since he assumed the Patafa presidency from Philip Ella Juico in July last year.

In fact, during the Tokyo Olympics, Capistrano spent his own resources just to make sure that Obiena’s poles will be safely transported amid the challenges brought by the Covid pandemic.

“If he wins in Paris, he can do it again in the next Olympics. I think he is good for one more Olympics — even until he is already 33 years old.”


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