(UPDATED) TUGUEGARAO CITY, Philippines-A 17-year old pole vaulter from Cainta, Rizal saved the day for the Philippine team as he notched the country’s first and lone gold during the last day of the 12th Southeast Asian Youth Athletics Championships in Ilagan City in Isabela province.
Francis Edward Obiena, a Grade 11 student of Chiang Kai Shek College, edged out his Singaporean counterpart Saclin Esan Maran by clearing 4.0 meters against the later’s 3.80 meters. He tried to beat his own personal best of 4.30 meters by trying 4.35 meters.
Obiena failed to beat the 4.50 meters record posted by Indonesian Richsan Idan Fauson during the 11th SEA Youth Athletics in Thailand in 2016, but he said he’s still proud to have brought gold medal of the Philippines.
“My goal was to beat the 4.50 record of Indonesia last year, but I am still thankful because I brought home gold medal for the Philippines… This is an honor,” Obiena told reporters in Filipino on Tuesday, March 28.
Asked if he has difficulty being the focus of attention when at play, Obiena said “I am okay with it.” In his final jump, he requested a little silence from the overeager crowd loudly cheering for him, being the only hope for a gold medal.
Before competing, Philippine athletic officials had high hopes that Obiena would help the country in avoiding a gold medal shutout.
In a Facebook post, the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) congratulated Obiena: “Way to go Francis! We are proud of you!”
As young athlete, Obiena had already competed various competitions, including Palarong Pambansa, the Philippines’ top athletic meet for elementary and secondary students.
He set a new record in pole vault category during the 2016 Palaro in Albay province, setting a 5.06-meter record.
The Vietnamese delegation showed top form in the 12th SEA Youth Athletics Championships. With only 5 events to be played, they already bagged 12 gold and 7 silver medals with only six games to be played on Tuesday afternoon.
“This reflects how [their] government support sports and of course, how serious they are in talent screening and skills development,” observes spectator Francisco Bumagat Jr. from the town of San Mateo, Isabela.
On Tuesday morning John Carlo Yuson, an 11-year-old sprinter from Barangay Bagumbayan of this city bagged the bronze in the 200m event for boys. This brings Philippines total medal standing to 8 silver and 13 bronze, including the silver contributed by fellow Ilagueño Wally Gacusan last Monday.
The City Government of Ilagan proudly honoured the two homegrown athletes who contributed in the medal harvest for the Philippines.
In a written statement sent to the media, Mayor Evelyn C. Diaz said “it is the best opportunity for these young athletes to be taken cognizance by the PATAFA and may open doors for their participation in future international events, and possibly their inclusion in the Philippine Team.”
Diaz also announced the allocation by the City Government of PHP100,000 pesos yesterday to serve as cash incentives awaiting the 32 Ilagueño athletes participating in the 12th SEA Youth and the 2017 Ayala National Open who will successfully get a medal. With reports from Abe Almirol/Northernforum.net