Francis Obiena delivers gold for Philippines with victory in pole vault in Southeast Asian Youth Athletics meet

FRANCIS Obiena struck gold in the boys’ pole vault event of the 12th Southeast Asian Youth Athletics Championships Tuesday at the Ilagan Sports Complex.

The 17-year-old Obiena cleared four meters to claim gold in the final event of the eight-nation tournament that also served as final tryouts for the Philippine team.

The Philippines wound up in sixth place with one gold, nine silver and 15 bronze medals. Vietnam topped the table with 13 gold and eight silver medals.

Singapore’s Saciin Esan Maran cleared 3.8 meters to grab the silver medal, while Filipino John Emmanuel Reyes bagged bronze by clearing 3.4 meters.

Obiena tried 4.35 meters in his final vault but could not clear the bar.

“This one is for the country,” said the Grade 12 student of Chang Kai Sheik whose father Edward holds the pole vault record in the National Collegiate Athletic Association and is a decathlon bronze medalist in the SEA Games.

His uncle, Emerson, is a silver medalist in the SEA Games while his cousin, 21-year old Ernest John, is billed as one of the country’s brightest hopes in the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, now training in Italy under the watchful eyes of Olympic legend Vitaly Petrov.

“I was trying to size up my Singaporean opponent in the final stretch. But when he failed to clear the bar at four meters, I knew I could make it. I just tried to attempt 4.35 meters to somehow overcome my personal best of 4.30 meters.”

Last year’s Palarong Pambansa champion Jessel Lumapas settled for the silver medal in the girls’ 400-m run and claimed bronze in the 200m.

John Carlo Yuzon bagged the bronze in the boys’ 200m.

A Grade 10 student at Paliparan National High School in Cavite, Lumapas registered 58.94 seconds, behind Thi Hong Han Le of Vietnam who claimed the 400-m gold in 58.16 seconds.

She clocked of 26.02 seconds, behind Malaysian Nor Aliyah Abd Rahman of Malaysia’s 25.25-second run, and Vietnamese bet Thi Hoa Duong’s 25.68 seconds in the meet presented by the City of Ilagan and sponsored by Ayala Corporation with Milo, Philippine Sports Commission and International Amateur Athletics Federation as co-presentor and Foton Pilipinas, UCPB Gen and Run Rio as minor sponsors.

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