CAPAS, Tarlac. — Ernest John Obiena will have to celebrate his record-setting victory in the pole vault on the road.
The pole vaulter left on Sunday, a day after clinching the gold medal in the 30th Southeast Asian Games track and field competitions at the New Clark City Athletic Stadium here.
Set to see action in the Tokyo Olympics next year, Obiena secured the mint by clearing 5.45 meters before an appreciative hometown crowd.
Although way off his national mark of 5.81 meters, it was enough to surpass the old SEA Games mark of 5.35 meters of dethroned Thai champion Porranot Purahong, who was relegated to the silver (5.20), while Malaysia’s Iskandar Alwi (5.00) took the bronze.
But there was no celebration for Obiena. In fact, he many not even celebrate Christmas in the country.
“Coach Vitaly Petrov wants him back right away,” said Obiena’s mother, Janet, the athletics competition manager. “Medyo upset na nga si coach.”
Petrov is none other than the renowned Serbian coach who mentored former world and Olympic champion Sergey Bubka and also handled Rio Olympic Games gold medalist Thiago Braz da Silva of Brazil.
He has taken Obiena under his wings at the IAAF special training camp in Formia, Italy since 2015, thanks to the assistance of Bubka, now a vice president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, the world track and field body.
The fruits of the athlete and coach’s partnership were there to see over the four-year period, highlighted by Obiena’s 5.81 vault in ruling the Salto Con L’Asta championships in Piazza, Italy last September that guaranteed him a slot to next year’s Tokyo Games.
“Coach Vitaly understands the importance of the SEA games for EJ but he doesn’t want my son’s training to be disrupted for the Olympics,” added the elder Obiena, whose son is currently ranked No. 14 in the IAAF world rankings.