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Sports

A chip off the old block: How EJ Obiena's father gave birth to Olympian's journey

Nelson Beltran - Philstar.com
A chip off the old block: How EJ Obiena's father gave birth to Olympian's journey
The Philippines' Ernest John Obiena competes in the Men's Pole Vault heats at the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships at the Khalifa International stadium in Doha on September 28, 2019.
Kirill Kudryavtsev / AFP

TOKYO – EJ Obiena’s exciting journey in sports took its roots from his dad’s days as a lowly rank-and-file employee competing in an inter-company sportsfest.

Emerson Obiena fell in love with athletics and as he regularly brought along his family in training, the son liked what he was seeing, picked it up, and the rest is history.

TRACKER: EJ Obiena at the Tokyo Olympics

“At three years old, he’s already picking up the pole. He did as I took a break, and he would make the stance that I did,” said Emerson.

And so EJ entering Emerson’s world was inevitable. And the student besting the master was inescapable.

In flying the flag in over a decade of participation in international meets, Emerson won two silvers and two bronzes in the Southeast Asian Games and, at his finest, made a sixth-place finish in the Asian meet.

Emerson Obiena with son EJ in this 2011 photo. Photo from Philstarlife

The older Obiena set his personal best of 4.95m at his peak as a pole-vaulter. The son would surpass it before he turned 18.

EJ hitting the 5.0 mark became his ticket to scholarship in Italy through the sponsorship of the International Association of Athletics Federation.

No sooner, he’s slugging it out with the giants of the sport.

On Saturday at the National Stadium here, he launches his Olympic bid, looking to qualify in pole-vault final Tuesday for a shot at bringing home a first Olympic medal in athletics for the country in 85 years or since Miguel White won the bronze in 400m hurdles in 1936 in Berlin.

Team Obiena has come a long way from the father’s days as a johnny-come-lately athlete, vying early on in marathon, in track, in pole vault and later in decathlon.

Emerson took athletics at 24 as he competed in the SMC Mini-Olympics.

But as late as his entry, Emerson cracked the national team and got to see action in seven SEA Games.

Success for EJ here would be success for the father-and-son tandem.

2021 TOKYO OLYMPICS EJ OBIENA
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