EJ Obiena is a sure medal bet for Team Philippines in the coming 19th Asian Games (Asiad). Hurdler Robyn Brown and long jumper Janry Ubas could make it three podium finishers for the country’s track and field squad.
Brown ruled the women’s 400-meter hurdles of the Asian Athletics Championships recently and while Ubas placed seventh in the same meet, the reigning South East Asian (SEA) Games long jump king can be a jaw-dropper on a good day.
“If he can jump the way he performed in the SEA Games, we can possibly earn a bronze medal,’’ said national coach Dario de Rosas.
The 29-year-old Ubas is the national record holder in long jump with the 8.08 m he accomplished during his decathlon stint in the Cambodia SEA Games last May. Ubas eventually seized the gold in long jump and a silver in decathlon.
“He only needs one lucky jump. A medal is possible if he can equal or even surpass his best,’’ said De Rosas, who handles the training of Ubas.
These kinds of surprises got Brown on top of the medal stage in the Asian Championships last July in Bangkok, Thailand.
The Los Angeles, California-based Brown nipped a couple of Japanese high-profile hurdlers in Eri Utsunomiya and Ami Yamamoto by clocking 57.50 seconds, just a fraction of a second ahead of Utsunomiya (57.73) and Yamamoto (57.80).
“It’s going to be tough repeating that act. I’ll make sure I’ll be in great shape during the race,’’ said Brown, who was unable to zoom past the qualifying heats of the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, last month.
Whether it comes from Obiena, Ubas or Brown, a medal in the continental meet in Hangzhou, China, can finally end the country’s podium heartbreak in the Asian Games.
Since Elma Muros brought home a bronze medal from the women’s long jump of the 1994 Asian Games in Hiroshima, Japan, no Filipino trackster has since bagged a medal of any color.
“We are confident of EJ winning in the pole vault. He’s the best in Asia right now,’’ said national coach Isidro del Prado, a former sprint hero in international meets during his prime.
Obiena has unfinished business in the Asian Games after winding up empty-handed in the 2018 Asiad in Indonesia.
From thereon, progress has been building up for the world’s No. 3 vaulter, winning the Asian championships twice and claiming a bronze and a silver in the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon, last year and this year in Budapest, respectively.
The Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association headed by its president Terry Capistrano has lined up 13 athletes plus 11 coaches and officials in the Hangzhou Games slated Sept. 23 to Oct. 8.
Six-time SEA Games champion Eric Cray (men’s 400-m hurdles), John Tolentino (men’s 110-m hurdles), Kristina Knott (women’s 100 m and 200 m), William Morrison (shot put), Ronnie Malipay (triple jump) and the 4×400-m relay team of Umajesty Williams, Frederick Ramirez, Joyme Sequita and Michael Del Prado will also be there.
“We are ready for the Asiad and all of us are hoping our athletes can snatch a medal,’’ said De Rosas, a pole vault specialist for the national team in the 80s. INQ
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