HANGZHOU, China – As expected, World No. 2 pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena gave the Philippines a gold medal at the 19th Asian Games here on Saturday night, exactly a week since the meet opened.
The 27-year-old Obiena cleared 5.90 meters to outclass the competition at Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium for the country’s first gold after a silver and six bronze medals.
His feat erased the Asiad record 5.75m of Japanese Seito Yamamoto set in the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang edition.
China’s Huang Bokai and Saudi Arabia’s Hussain al Hizam both had 5.65m but the local bet took the silver on countback.
“I didn’t want to stop at 5.90,” Obiena told reporters, referring to his attempt at 6.02m. “I’m excited to take this medal, put it on a shelf, but I would have liked to hit a record in front of an Asian crowd. That would have been amazing.”
“Unfortunately, I didn’t have it in me, but this is one of the biggest stadiums I’ve been in and one of the most amazing crowds,” he added.
Obiena was the first Filipino to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics after a 5.82-m finish at the Bauhaus-Galan tournament in Stockholm, Sweden in July.
He finished second to World No. 1 and hometown favorite Armand Duplantis.
Meanwhile, Sanda fighter Arnel Mandal dropped his final encounter against a favored foe on Thursday, delivering the first silver medal for the Philippines in the 19th Asian Games.
The 27-year-old Mandal unloaded a large number of punches in a desperate attempt to knock out China’s Jiang Haidong but failed to find the target throughout their two-round contest.
Jiang eventually got away with the title, 2-0, in the men’s 56kg. category at the Xiaoshan Guali Sports Center.
“Ginawa ko lahat ng aking makakaya pero hindi ako pinalad (I did my best but I was not lucky),” said Mandal, the 2015 World Sanda Championship men’s 52kg. titleholder.
There is no need to be disappointed though.
Mandal’s second-place finish is the first for Team Philippines apart from the five bronzes across the medal tally.
Gideon Padua ended his Asiad stint with a bronze in the men’s 60kg. after Filipino wushu officials decided not to field him in the semifinals on Wednesday night due to a broken nose bridge.
Padua hurt his nose in an impressive quarterfinal win over Turkmenistan’s Agajumageldi Yazymov on Tuesday night.
“Ayaw namin i-risk pa si Gideon. Bronze na yan at mataas ang probability na matamaan ang injury nya sa mga kasunod na laban (We don’t want to put Gideon at risk. He is already assured of a bronze medal and there is a high probability that his injured nose might get hit again in the next matches),” Wushu Federation of the Philippines President Freddie Jalasco said.
Joining Padua on the bronze podium is Clemente Tabugara Jr., who was assured of a medal after downing Kazakhstan’s Abdusamat Ashirov in the men’s 65kg. quarterfinals before his run ended against Indonesia’s Samuel Marbun.
The Philippine wushu team wrapped its campaign with one silver and three bronze medals, including the taolu specialist Jones Inso’s medal performance in the men’s taijiquan-taijijian all-round.