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8 Facts About Olympic Athlete EJ Obiena, Filipino Pole Vaulter Who Won Gold In The SEA Games

EJ Obiena facts

Many Filipinos love sports. Whether it’s basketball, volleyball, or even weightlifting, you can count on Filipinos to root for their own. Thanks to EJ Obiena, Filipinos have a new sport to rave about: pole vaulting.

Having been in the spotlight for quite some time, EJ has made great strides in his career as a pole vaulter. On that note, this is your chance to know more about him in this list of 8 facts about EJ Obiena.

1. He comes from a family of athletes

EJ Obiena facts - family of athletes Emerson and Jeanette Obiena
Emerson and Jeanette Obiena
Image adapted from: Emerson Obiena, Ma Jeanette Obiena via Facebook 

Given his family history, there’s no doubt that EJ, a.k.a. Ernest John, gets his athletic skills from his parents. His father, Emerson Obiena, is a former pole vaulter who himself competed in the SEA Games and had earned bronze and silver medals. His mother Jeanette Obiena, on the other hand, was a hurdler back in her college days.

family of athletes Emily Obiena pole vaulter
Image credit: Edward Obiena via Facebook

Even his sister Emily is following in his and their father’s footsteps in becoming a pole vaulter. She held the Philippine junior record back in 2021 as well as represented the country in the 2017 SEA Games in Malaysia.

2. He tried hurdling before getting into pole vaulting

EJ Obiena facts - EJ tried hurdling at first
Image credit: EJ Obiena – Ernest Obiena via Facebook

As early as eight years old, Obiena started practicing pole vaulting, being coached by his own father. However, before focusing fully on pole vaulting, he decided to give hurdling a go when he was in elementary school.

After unfortunately not making the regional meets, he shifted back to pole vaulting in high school with hopes of getting offered scholarships from universities and colleges.

Later on, he accepted a scholarship from the University of Santo Tomas.

3. He played for UST in the UAAP

EJ Obiena facts - EJ played for UST in the UAAPImage credit: EJ Obiena – Ernest Obiena via Facebook

While studying at UST, he got the chance to represent the school in the UAAP as part of the UST Tracksters team as a pole vaulter and hurdler. He was coached by Coach Manny Calipes as well as his father during this period.

EJ Obiena under coach Vitaly Petrov
Image credit: EJ Obiena – Ernest Obiena via Facebook

His UAAP participation ended when he took a leave of absence in 2018 to train in Italy under the coaching of Ukrainian athletics coach Vitaly Petrov.

4. He studied Electronics Engineering at UST

EJ Obiena facts - EJ Obiena visits UST in 2022Image credit: University of Santo Tomas via Facebook 

As some of you might already know, athletics is just a part of what Obiena loves doing. Outside of pole vaulting, he’s an Electronics Engineering student at the University of Santo Tomas.

In September 2022, he paid his alma mater a visit in order to receive the Pope John Paul II Award for Outstanding Achievement in Sports.

While he’s uncertain of when he can go back to studying, Obiena mentioned that he’d very much like to finish the program and earn a degree. He also emphasized that aside from pole vaulting, Electronics Engineering is one of the things that he’s passionate about.

5. He’s a three-time SEA Games gold medalist

EJ Obiena facts - EJ Obiena 3-time SEA Games gold medalistImage credit: EJ Obiena – Ernest Obiena via Facebook

From his first win in the 30th SEA Games in 2019 until the recent 32nd SEA Games this year, Obiena now carries three gold medals from the SEA Games.

During this year’s competition, he was able to break his own record of jumping 5.65 meters – this landed him his win. What makes this more impressive is that he was able to achieve this win despite the heavy rainfall that occurred in Cambodia on the day of his competition.

6. He’s the first Filipino 2020 Tokyo Olympics qualifier in 2019

EJ Obiena facts - 2020 Tokyo Olympics qualifierImage credit: EJ Obiena – Ernest Obiena via Facebook

Thanks to his winning performance in the 2019 SEA Games, he easily became the first Filipino to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Even though he secured a spot in the finals of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Obiena ended the competition at 11th place when he failed to clear 5.80 meters after three attempts.

7. He’ll be auctioning his gold-winning shoes from the SEA Games

EJ Obiena facts - gold-winning shoes to be auctioned
Image adapted from: EJ Obiena – Ernest Obiena, EJ Obiena – Ernest Obiena via Facebook

To celebrate his win in the 32nd SEA Games, he decided to put his gold-winning customized Puma shoes up for auction to help aspiring Filipino pole vaulters.

After raising enough money, he hopes to open a new or even a second-hand pole vault pit in a provincial area where aspiring pole vaulters can come and train.

8. He’s gunning for the 2024 Paris Olympics

EJ Obiena facts - aiming to get qualified for 2024 Paris OlympicsImage credit: EJ Obiena – Ernest Obiena via Facebook

Inspired by Olympic weightlifting champion Hidilyn Diaz-Naranjo, EJ Obiena is pumped and motivated – now more than ever – to get qualified early in the 2024 Paris Olympics.

EJ Obiena and Hidilyn Diaz
Image credit: EJ Obiena – Ernest Obiena via Facebook

According to Obiena, it’s all thanks to Hidilyn showing Filipino athletes that achieving a gold medal in the Olympics is possible. She inspired him – and many Filipinos – to believe. With his steady track record, it’ll come as no surprise if he does qualify early in the upcoming Olympics.

Facts about EJ Obiena

Given his background and everything else that he has achieved in his young life, it’s clear that EJ Obiena is making a name for himself. With that goal in mind, there’s truly no way to go but up for this rising Olympic star.

We wish him the best of luck in getting qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

For more facts to know about famous Filipino personalities, check out things to know about Hidilyn Diaz or facts about Michelle Dee. Visit The Smart Local Philippines for more.

Cover image adapted from: EJ Obiena – Ernest Obiena, EJ Obiena – Ernest Obiena, EJ Obiena – Ernest Obiena via Facebook