Pole vault festival in Philippines?

Joaquin Henson - The Philippine Star
Pole vault festival in Philippines?
EJ Obiena.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — There’s a plan being hatched to stage a two-leg pole vault festival, sanctioned by World Athletics, in Tagaytay and BGC in October next year with EJ Obiena hoping to bring in top-caliber jumpers to join the event. Timing will be right after the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China on Sept. 23 to Oct. 8 and the end of the outdoor season.

“If everything is aligned, maybe we can get this done,” said Obiena. “It will be amazing and historic. To receive sanction from World Athletics, we need to sign up a TV network for the rights, guarantee the participation of top caliber vaulters and gather a large audience. I think it’s definitely doable with the support of PSC, POC and PATAFA. Mayor Bambol (Tolentino) has designated the sports park in Tagaytay for one leg and it has a spectacular view of Taal Volcano. The Cayetano family also expressed interest in staging a leg in BGC and that, too, would be incredible.”

Obiena said he will invite world No. 2 Chris Nilsen of the US, No. 4 Thiago Braz of Brazil, No. 7 Oleg Zernikel of Germany and No. 13 Kurtis Marshall of Australia, among others. “I’ll also invite world No. 1 Mondo (Duplantis) and I hope he can fit it in his schedule,” said Obiena. “Thiago owes me a trip to the Philippines because our bet was if he took a medal in the Tokyo Olympics, he’ll come over. Oleg is popular among Filipino fans everywhere not only because of his ability but also because of his good looks. Kurtis will definitely come and I’m hoping Chris will, too.”

A challenge is bringing in the runway. “There are three possible sources to rent a runway,” said Obiena. “Phuket in Thailand, France and Germany. It will be expensive by air so we need to compare costs of shipping and delivery. In Tagaytay, we will contend with the wind factor. If we do it at night, we take away the view of Taal. We can put up a platform to compensate for the slope with enough space for a runway and pit. It was suggested to do another athletics event like long jump aside from pole vault but that will depend on the organizers.”

Obiena said the event could be a men’s competition for eight or a combination of a meet for six men and another for six women. “We’ve got Filipinas who are jumping 4.2 and it would be a great opportunity to expose them to an event that’s sanctioned by World Athletics,” he said. “The event could earn qualifying points for the Paris Olympics.” At the moment, the two-leg event is a dream. Obiena said he’ll do his part to try and make it happen.

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