Obiena impresses kids and fellow athletes visiting weekly relays at PhilSports

THE plan was to stay for three weeks, but for some reason Ernest John ‘EJ’ Obiena’s vacation was extended for another week, with the Asian men’s pole vault record holder flying out for the Italy in four days.

And Obiena made sure his extra week would be a worthwhile extension of his R&R, his first since December 2019 when he flew to Italy to train at the Formia World Pole Vaulting Center with the legendary coach Vitaly Petrov after winning gold at 30e Southeast Asian Games.

So on Sunday, Obiena traveled to the PhilSports complex in Pasig City to surprise participants in the weekly Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association relays.

To brighten up the weekend, Obiena handed out five pairs of Puma athletic shoes to aspiring young participants who had to answer trivial athletics questions to win one of the prizes.

One lucky youngster was eight-year-old Mark Luiz Ruto, a third-grade student from Majada Primary School and a promising prospect from Calamba, Laguna, who trains with the iSKOLAR Atletiks Running Club team.

Not only did Ruto win a pair, but he had the rare privilege of having his photo taken with his Tokyo Olympic idol, an experience he will surely treasure the moment he is in Obiena’s big shoes fighting for the flag. and the country.

“I’ve accomplished a lot of little things that I wanted to do, like donating shoes to kids and meeting my fans,” Obiena told BusinessMirror as he tirelessly posed for photos with cheering athletes, numbering 250 this weekend. “I’m really excited to meet them personally.”

The R&R was worth it, Obiena said.

“Me and Caroline [Joyeaux] spent a few days in El Nido and some islands in Palawan before returning to Manila to take care of a lot of things,” he said. “But Caroline had to go back to Germany to start her training.”

Obiena and Joyeaux, his long jumper girlfriend, arrived in the country on September 15 for a well-deserved vacation. He’s been in Europe for nearly three years, training and touring the outdoor and indoor season, including the world championships in Eugene, Orego, where he clinched bronze last July.

Naomi C. Amerson