MANILA – Filipino Ernest John "EJ" Obiena is eager to bring his fellow world-class pole vaulters to the Philippines in an invitational tournament next year.
World No. 1 and 2020 Tokyo Olympics gold winner Armand Duplantis of Sweden, World No. 2 and 2020 Tokyo Olympics silver medalist Chris Nilsen of the United States, No. 4 and 2016 Rio Olympics gold medalist Thiago Braz of Brazil and Obiena will lead the star-studded event to be held at The Picnic Grove, one of Tagaytay City's famous tourist attractions.
“The objective is to bring them here after the outdoor season’s over,” said Obiena, who discussed his plan with Philippine Olympic Committee President Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino during their conversation last week in Tagaytay.
The pole vaulter was accompanied by girlfriend Caroline Joyeaux, a long jumper from Germany.
Tolentino, a former congressman who is now Tagaytay City mayor, described The Picnic Grove as "an ideal venue".
“With the Taal Volcano as backdrop, what more could you ask for -- a world-class pole vault action in one of the most picturesque tourist attractions in the country. Every jump will be postcard-perfect," he said.
The setup of the venue, according to the world No. 3 Obiena, is the same as in Europe -- a street venue where the runway, the box, crossbars and landing area are all easily moved or collapsible.
With the European outdoor season ending in early September and the Asian Games in Huangzhou, China scheduled on the same month next year, the pole vault invitational could be held in late September or early or mid-October.
Obiena said the plan is to have a spectator-friendly invitational event sanctioned by the World Athletics, the international governing body of the sport.
Tolentino noted that tourism will benefit from the staging of the pole vault invitational, saying "it's great for tourism and the Philippines will be in the international pole vaulting map. It’s very doable despite next year’s busy schedule. It’s going to be a big event so we have to plan this carefully.”
Obiena said both the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) headed by Noli Eala and the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) under president Terry Capistrano would play key roles in the success of the tournament.
“We are hoping to work with of POC and PSC, it’s a mix collaboration,” said Obiena, a gold winner in the 2019 and 2022 SEA Games.
"I also love to see Hackett de los Santos to experience and compete with the best athletes," he added. Delos Santos bagged a silver medal in the Vietnam SEA Games last May.
“This is going to be historic that’s why I am pushing for it. Pole vault is a standard competition so it's doable,” said Obiena.
He is hoping to encourage the PSC, local government units and big business to put up more pole vaulting venues around the country. (PNA)