Welcome Home, Golden Boy EJ!

ERNEST JOHN “EJ” OBIENA is flying home on Wednesday but not without scooping another gold medal Tuesday at the Gala dei Castelli in Bellinzona, Switzerland.

When everyone thought his gold at the Golden Fly in Liechtenstein on Sunday was to cap his outdoor season campaign in Europe, Obiena decided to take on Bellinzona.

And he was as impressive.

The 26-year-old world championships bronze medalist cleared 5.81 meters—a meet record—for his sixth gold medal in a five nation, 21-day European sortie, cementing his status as one of today’s world-class athletes. He’s ranked third in the world behind pole vault wonder Armand Duplantis of Sweden and Chris Nilsen of the US.

Nilsen also competed in Bellinzona but settled for the silver medal with a 5.71-meter effort, the same height cleared by Renaud Lavillenie, the world No. 5 from France, who bagged the bronze after the countback.

Obiena was in the country in 2019 for the 30th Southeast Asian Games where he retained his gold medal with ease. He left for his training base in Formia, Italy, and was stuck there for most of 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino confirmed Obiena indeed is coming home.

“We’ll have lunch here in Tagaytay City after the [POC] Executive Board meeting on Friday,” said Tolentino, also the PhilCycling president who’s now back as mayor of the resort city. “He’ll be my visitor here.”

Counting his back-to-back 2019 and 2022 Vietnam SEA Games titles, Obiena amassed eight gold, one silver and one bronze in his various campaigns in the last four years.

He also won gold in the outdoor European season at the Wanda Diamond League’s Memorial Van Damme in Brussels where he sent Duplantis back to earth, Stabhochsprung Meeting Stadion in Jockgrim, Germany, True Athletes Classics Stadion Manfort in Leverkusen also in Germany and St. Wendel City Jump in Belgium.

Lafferty said Obiena again went for his Asian record in Bellinzona but missed.

“He went for 5.95 meters, very close, but didn’t clear it,” Lafferty said. “Now he’s done and he flies to Manila tomorrow [Wednesday].”

“I’m happy for him, now he gets to see his family again,” he adde.

The Obienas—dad Emerson, mom Jeaneth and sister Emily Jean—live in in Tondo.

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