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Obiena aims to inspire next generation

photograph by Joey sanchez Mendoza for the daily tribune @tribunephl_joey ERNEST John Obiena’s parents, Emerson (second from right) and Jeanette (center), receive his SMC-PSA Athlete of the Year award from PSA president Nelson Beltran. Also shown are PSC chairman Richard ‘Dickie’ Bachmann (left) and POC president Abraham ‘Bambol’ Tolentino (right).

Ernest John Obiena couldn’t have chosen a better stage to inspire the new breed of stars.

With athletes, coaches, and ranking sports officials in attendance at the packed San Miguel Corporation-Philippine Sportswriters Association Awards Night on Monday, Obiena bared that he is doing his best so that he could inspire the next generation and create positive change.

The 28-year-old Obiena had been named as the 2023 Athlete of the Year by the country’s oldest media organization following his exploits in the international arena.

His impressive performance across Europe installed him as the second-best pole vaulter in the world and won the Southeast Asian Games and Asian Games gold medals in record-breaking fashions.

Unfortunately, Obiena failed to go home to Manila to personally accept his award as he is neck-deep in his training at his base camp in Italy in preparation for the Paris Olympics next year.

With that, his parents, former national team member Emerson Obiena and Jeanette Obiena, accepted the award on his behalf witnessed by Philippine Sports Commission chairman Richard “Dickie” Bachmann, Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino and Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association president Agapito “Terry” Capistrano.

“I see my role as a means to an end, a means to inspire the next generation of our youth, to illustrate the ability and talent of our country, and, of course, as a means of nation-building,” said Obiena via Zoom from the Italian coastal town of Formia during the star-studded event at the Diamond Hotel.

“Superficially, it’s me using a pole to lift over a bar, but underneath it is a very powerful means for me to drive positive change.”

Obiena said his success in pole vaulting doesn’t only inspire the entire country but also contribute to nation-building.

“For me, it suggests that I have been successful in my mission not in pole vaulting but in leveraging my craft for a better and stronger Philippines,” Obiena stressed, seeking apology for not being able to personally accept his first Athlete of the Year plum during the event presented by ArenaPlus with the PSC, POC, MILO, PLDT/Smart and Cignal as major sponsors.

“Unfortunately, I can’t be there physically because I am here to represent my country and I shall do my country my very best (in the Olympics).”

Aside from Obiena, the night also belonged to businessmen and sports patrons Manny Pangilinan and Ramon Ang as well as Asian Games heroes Margarita Ochoa and Annie Ramirez of jiu-jitsu and Gilas Pilipinas represented by Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al Panlilio and coach Tim Cone.

Also in attendance were the stars of the highly-successful Creamline squad in the Premier Volleyball League in Alyssa Valdez, Tots Carlos, Michele Gumabao, Kyle Negrito and Jema Galanza as well as seven-time Philippine Basketball Association Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo.

“When we hear all these triumphs in sports, we can truly believe that we are world-class,” noted Pangilinan, the man behind the country’s successful hosting of the FIBA Basketball World Cup, in his acceptance speech.

“We support sports because of its unifying power, whose roots can only be deeply spiritual because sports celebrates values such as fair play, discipline, hard work to be magnanimous in victory and humble in defeat.”


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