CAPAS, Tarlac – Will it be third time a charm for Olympic-bound pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena?
After a silver in the 2015 Singapore Southeast Asian Games and skipping the Malaysian edition two years ago due to injury, Obiena is expected to go all out for gold as track and field action in the 30th SEA Games unfolds at the New Clark City Athletic Stadium here on Saturday.
All eyes will be on the lean and lanky athlete when he takes to the field at 5:30 p.m. as the top favorite after qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games in clearing 5.81 meters in ruling the Salto Con L’Asta competitions in Piazza, Italy last September.
This exceeded the Olympic qualifying cut of 5.80 meters, which is also superior to the gold-medal winning height of 5.35 meters set by Thailand’s Porranot Purahong in the 2017 SEA Games.
It has been a banner year for Obiena, who also clinched top honors in the world championships in Doha, Qatar and the World University Games in Naples, Italy.
Over the past four years he has been training at the special IAAF training camp under the tutelage of noted Serbian coach Vitaly Petrov, the former mentor of world and Olympic champion Sergey Bubka and Rio Olympic gold medalist Thiago Braz da Silva of Brazil.
He has repeatedly said that he would love nothing better than clinch the mint in front of his countrymen before resuming his training for the Tokyo Olympics.
But Obiena won’t be alone in the bid for gold as Fil-Am sprinter Kristina Knott will be seeking to dethrone Vietnamese sprint queen Le Thu Chinh in the women’s 200-meter run whose heats start at 8:50 p.m.
Knott has a personal best of 23.23 seconds in the event, better than Le’s winning time of 23.32 in the 2017 Malaysia Games.
Zion Corrales-Nelson, who was also supposed to run the 200-meter dash, decided to skip the event and concentrate on the century sprint on Sunday.
Evergreen former SEA Games hammer throw champion Arniel Ferreira, who took bronze in Malaysia, hopes to draw inspiration from hometown fans when takes to the field at 6:15 p.m.
Sarah Dequinan and Josefa Ligmayo open their campaign in the women’s heptathlon also Saturday. (LO/IAMIGO.CNS)