Obiena-led athletics team tries to surpass Hanoi haul

Obiena-led athletics team tries to surpass Hanoi haul

The reigning fastest woman in Southeast Asia, Kayla Richardson. (ABS-CBN News photo courtesy)

SIAM REAP, Cambodia – The big guns of athletics, led by Olympians Ernest John Obiena and Kristina Knott, go into action Monday at the Morodok Techo National Stadium in Phnom Penh with the goal of surpassing the team’s medal haul in the last edition of the biennial meet.

Hoping to eclipse its five-gold, seven-silver, and 14-bronze haul in athletics during the Hanoi games, Team Philippines will be led by world no. 3 pole vaulter Obiena, who according to the news wire service Agence France-Presse is “perhaps the biggest favorite in any athletics event at this games.”

Obiena, who will shoot for another stint in the Olympics (Paris 2024) when the qualifying window opens in July, has a personal best of 5.94 meters. But he doesn’t have to leap that high in these games, where the SEA Games record only stands at just 5.46, which Obiena also owns.

“He’s in good spirits kahit pagod sa biyahe,” said Obiena’s father/coach Emerson referring to his son’s 22-hour total journey from Italy. “Katulad nga ng sinabi niya, pupunta siya dito para ‘jump to win’.”

The 27-year-old Tokyo Olympian will be shooting for a third straight pole vault gold at 4:05 p.m. (5:05 in Manila) and maybe, go for the record. But this will all be based on what kind of rhythm Obiena will have on Monday.

“Tignan muna natin kung ano ang magiging position niya, and then we will take it from there,” the older Obiena added.

All eyes will also be on the team’s other athletic stars Knott and the reigning fastest woman in Southeast Asia – Kayla Richardson.

The 27-year Knott, for one, has been aching for competition in these games. After becoming the darling of athletics during the 2019 edition of the games in the Philippines, where she bagged two golds (200 and 4×100 mixed relay), including a new games record in the 200, Knott missed the Hanoi games when she tore her left plantar fasciitis.

“To win, that is the goal,” said Knott, who will try to regain the 200m title, where her teammate Richardson, is also entered. Heats begin at 9 a.m. (10 a.m. in Manila).

Richardson, 25, tries to keep the 100m crown she regained in Vietnam on Friday.

Also hoping to land medals for Team PH on Monday are Janry Ubas and Aries Toledo (decathlon), Umajesty Williams (men’s 200m), Aira Teodosio (women’s hammer throw), Elijah Cole (pole vault), Melvin Calano and John Paul Sarmiento (men’s javelin throw), Edwin Giron and Alfrence Braza (men’s 1,500), Joida Gagnao and Abiegail Manzano (women’s 5,000).


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