UST showers Obiena with amore, support

Like a returning war hero, Ernest John Obiena was showered with love and adulation the moment he stepped foot at his alma mater — the University of Santo Tomas.

Ranking UST officials rallied behind Obiena, conferring him with the prestigious Pope John Paul II Outstanding Achievement Award for bringing pride and honor to the country in various international competitions.

No less than UST vice rector Rev. Fr. Isaias Tiongco and secretary general Rev. Fr. Louie Coronel honored the 26-year-old athlete, who emerged as the third-best pole vaulter in the world following a string of victories, including the Brussels Diamond League in Belgium in September and the World Athletics Championships in the United States in July.

His performance in the Diamond League and the World Championships was truly impressive.

In the Diamond League, he posted 5.91 meters to emerge victorious over a star-studded cast of competitors that included world record-holder Armand Duplantis of Sweden and heavy contender Chris Nilsen of the United States.

Prior to that, he set an Asian record of 5.94 meters when he clinched the bronze medal in the World Championships — the most prestigious athletics event outside the Summer Olympics.
Obiena said getting recognized by his alma mater was overwhelming.

“I never thought that UST would recognize me for the things I’ve done,” said the Italy-based Obiena, who took up BS Electronics Engineering.

“I’ve always been part of the university even when I was away.”

Obiena, who is in the country for a brief vacation with his German girlfriend Carol Joyeux, said words are not enough to express how thankful he is to the Thomasian community.

“I just wanna say thank you very much,” he said.

“I would keep my feet on the ground and keep soaring high for the university and for the country.”

Obiena is having a grand time in his three-week visit to the country.

Shortly after arriving, he had a courtesy call with Philippine Sports Commission chairperson Jose Emmanuel “Noli” Eala to discuss how the government can go all out in supporting him in his quest for glory in the Paris Olympics in 2024.

He also paid a visit to the Philippine Olympic Committee with its president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino broaching the idea of pitting him against Duplantis, Nilsen, Thiago Braz of Brazil and Renaud Lavillenie of France in an ultimate vaulting showdown next year.

The program is still in the drawing board, but the POC chief is looking at staging it in Tagaytay City with the world-famous Taal Volcano serving as backdrop.

Obiena said aside from treating his countrymen to world-class action, it will also give other young vaulters like national team member Hockett Delos Santos a massive exposure against the heavyweights of the sport.

“The objective is to bring them here after the outdoor season’s over,” Obiena said.

“I also love to see De los Santos experience and compete with the best athletes.”

Still, Obiena insists that the real goal is the Paris Olympics in which the Filipinos would be marching with chip on their shoulders after winning their first ever gold medal courtesy of weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz in the previous edition in Tokyo.

And with his own school — UST — rallying behind him, Obiena is thrilled to fly back to Europe, resume his training and soar for an Olympic victory.

“Hopefully, I can enjoy the remaining days before training for Paris and make the most out of it,” Obiena said.

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