By Graham C. Lim
Naples, Italy ---- It was a surprising turn of events, even in the eyes of officials from the Federation of School Sports Association of the Philippines (FESSAP) that sent him to the 30th Summer Universiade (SU) in Napoli, Italy this month.
With support coming only from the privately-funded FESSAP, 23-year-old Ernest John Obiena showed he was made of sterner stuff when he copped the country’s second Universiade gold medal ever by topping the men’s pole vault event in athletics before an appreciative crowd at the San Paolo Stadium in the city of Naples in southern Italy.
Obiena, a product of Chiang Kai Shek College (CKSC) and the University of Santo Tomas (UST), ruled the event on a Friday evening (July 12) where seemingly, all the stars in the sky were aligned in his favor.
Obiena’s gold medal-winning performance was 5.76 on the height meters. Germany’s Torben Blech also registered 5.76 meters but the former took the gold with just two jumps – one less than the German athlete.
Blech settled for the silver. Also making it to the medal podium was Belgium’s B.J. Broeders (5.51 meters), who copped the bronze.
Obiena was a standout in the Filipino-Chinese Amateur Athletic Federation (FCAAF) track and field competitions during his high school days at CKSC.
The soft-spoken Obiena spent some time in Italy in preparation for the Napoli Universiade. He will continue to stay there for some time before embarking on another international tournament in August – the Diamond Athletics Championships to be organized by the IAAF.
For his golden feat, FESSAP President Angel Ngu, Chair Alvin Tai Lian and honorary president David Ong doff their hats off this gentleman athlete.
Prof. Robert Milton Calo, Chair of the Universiade Preparation Committee, sent text message congratulating Ernest John Obiena for his great performance in bringing honor to the country.
EJ Obiena is the second athlete to be sent by the FESSAP who brought honor to the Philippines by romping away with a Universiade gold.
Woodpusher wizard Wesley So, who has since migrated to the U.S. to seek greener pasture due to the political patronage employed the top local sports officials in the past, also won a Universiade gold in men’s chess during the 2013 Kazan Universiade in the Russian Republic in 2013.
Ironically, a grandmaster, Wesley So also emerged victorious via a tie-breaker. A deadlock among seven athletes resulted in a blitz contest between So and his Armenian foe, who held the white pieces but was time-troubled to complete 40 moves.
Overall, the Philippines, through FESSAP, has won four medals in the Summer Universiade.
The other medalists are Samuel Thomas Harper Morrison from Far Eastern University in men’s taekwondo during the 2011 Shenzhen Universiade in the People’s Republic of China and Jomar Balangui from the University of Baguio City in men’s wushu during the 2017 Taipei Universiade in Taiwan.
Both Morrison and Balangui won the silver medal.
The FESSAP has been sending athletes to the Summer Universiade since it was recognized by the International University Sports Federation (FISU) in 2009 in Serbia as the lone national university sports federation from the Philippines.
The FISU is the international governing body for university sports.
The Summer Universiade, which is a prestigious multi-sport competition, is organized by the FISU along with the Winter Universiade and World University Championships in various sports.
This marked the fifth consecutive time that the FESSAP has sent Filipino university athletes to the Summer Universiade. In the past, it also funded the country’s participation in the 2011 Shenzhen Universiade in China, 2013 Kazan Universiade in Russia, 2015 Gwangju Universiade Games in the Republic of Korea and 2017 Chinese Taipei Universiade in Taiwan.
Considered by many as the Olympics at the university level, the biennial Summer Universiade attracted more than 150 countries and 8,000 university athletes and team officials during the Napoli Universiade, including the delegation from sports powers the United States, Germany, France, Russia, South Korea, Japan and China.
Some of the legendary sports figures who once took part in the Summer Universiade in the past included all-time NBA great Michael Jordan, Yao Ming (basketball) and Li Ning (gymnastics) from China.
The Philippines’ participation in the 2019 Napoli Universiade was made possible with the generous support of Bestank Corporation, OMNI Electrical & Lights from Yatai International Corporation, Technological University of the Philippines (TUP), Mapua University, Megaworld Corporation, Globe Telecom, San Miguel Corporation, Philippine Amusement & Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), Bataan Peninsula State University, Republic Biscuit, University of Baguio, and the Philippine Delegations’ Official outfitter is ASICS Tiger from Sonak Corporation-Philippines.
This early, the FESSAP is already preparing for the next Summer Universiade two years from now. The 31st edition of the Summer Universiade will be held in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China in August 2021.
Are more medals in the offing? Just wait. The best is yet to come!