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Obiena is PSA’s Athlete of the Year

EJ Obiena soared to greater heights in 2023.

The credentials of the 28-year-old Tondo-born pole vaulter in a 12-month span was indeed impressive, highlighting it by winning golds in three major international tournaments in record-breaking fashion.

EJ Obiena celebrates after winning the gold in the Asian Games (PSC Media Pool)

He made history anew in the World Athletics Championships, became the first Filipino to join pole vault’s ultra-elite 6.00-meter club, and then capped off the year by finishing as the no. 2 ranked athlete in his field.

Obiena was also the first to book a berth in the 2024 Paris Olympics – the first Filipino bet to do so – with a silver-medal effort in a tournament in Sweden, just a day after the qualifiers for next year’s Olympiad began.

Those glowing achievements truly, are hard to ignore especially in a year when many firsts were recorded in Philippine sports history.

On account of it, Obiena has been chosen as the sole recipient of the Athlete of the Year honor in the coming San Miguel Corporation (SMC)-PSA Awards Night.

Gilas Pilipinas ending 61-year of frustration by bagging the basketball gold in the Asian Games, the Filipinas national team scoring a historic win in its FIFA Women’s World Cup debut, and the pair of Margarita ‘Meggie’ Ochoa and Annie Ramirez achieving a double gold for jiu-jitsu in the Hangzhou Asiad, were all considered for the prestigious award.

But Obiena got the nod of the majority from the country’s oldest media organization composed of print and online sportswriters headed by its president Nelson Beltran, sports editor of The Philippine STAR.

ArenaPlus will be presenting the blue-ribbon event with the Philippine Sports Commission, Philippine Olympic Committee, PLDT/Smart and MILO as major sponsors. Also backing the event are the Philippine Basketball Association, Premier Volleyball League, Rain or Shine and 1-Pacman Partylist Rep. Mikee Romero.

Obiena, son of track and field athletes Emerson and Jeanette Uy, is the first track athlete to be honored with the prestigious award since long jumper Marestella Torres in 2009.

He emerged the undisputed pole vault king in Asia in the year just passed. Obiena set new records in the Cambodia Southeast Asian Games (5.65 meters), the Asian Athletics Championships (5.91 meters) in Thailand, and later, the Hangzhou Asian Games (5.90 meters) on the way to completing a sweep of all three gold medals.

Obiena then raised the ante by becoming the first Filipino pole vaulter to win a silver medal in the World Athletics Championship in Budapest. He did 6.0 meters in another podium finish following his breakthrough bronze medal in the 2022 edition in Oregon.

Earlier, he finally joined pole vault’s ultra-elite 6.00-meter club and won the gold in the Sparebanken Vest Bergen Jump Challenge in Norway, becoming the first and only Asian athlete to achieve the feat.

In between, he also qualified to the 2024 Paris Olympics by clearing the bar at 5.82 meters in the Diamond League-Bauhaus Galan in Sweden and won numerous other tournaments during the season.

By the end of 2023, Obiena shot from no. 6 previously to the world’s second best pole vaulter behind Armand ‘Mondo’ Duplantis.

Credit belongs to : www.mb.com.ph

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