According to national coaches Isidro del Prado and Dario De Rosas, the Philippines’ best chance to break a three-decade-long medal drought at the upcoming Asian Games lies with Filipino Olympic pole vaulter Ernest John “EJ” Obiena.

EJ Obiena, a 27-year-old athlete, has been a standout in various track and field events this season, including clinching a silver medal at the World Athletics Championships in Hungary.

Currently ranked as the world’s second-best pole vaulter, the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) is placing its hopes on his shoulders.

Speaking in Filipino during the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum at the Rizal Memorial Stadium, Del Prado expressed confidence in EJ’s potential for a gold medal: “EJ is our top contender for the pole vault gold.”

Since long jumper Elma Muros secured a bronze medal in the 1994 Asian Games in Hiroshima, no Filipino track and field athlete has claimed a medal in the competition.

De Rosas, who coaches long jumper Janry Ubas, triple jumper Ronnie Malipay, and heptathlete Sarah Dequinan, added, “We are prepared for the Asiad, and we’re optimistic about winning a medal. Hopefully, [Ubas] can secure another medal in the long jump, possibly a bronze.”

In the 4×400 meter relay event, Umajesty Williams, Frederick Ramirez, Joyme Squita, and Michael Carlo Del Prado, Isidro’s son, are set to represent the Philippines. Del Prado expressed, “India, Japan, China, and Sri Lanka are formidable competitors in the 4×400 meter event. I’ve urged them to give their all in an attempt to break the Philippine record of 3:06.47. We’re hopeful of reaching the finals.”

The Filipino quartet had previously clinched gold at the recent Southeast Asian Games held in Cambodia.

Other notable members of the Philippine delegation include hurdlers Robyn Brown, Eric Cray, and John Tolentino, sprinter Kristina Knott, and shot putter William Morrison. (ai/mnm)