Ernest John Obiena and Eric Cray banner the Philippine track and field squad that is looking to win nine gold medals in the 29th Southeast Asian Games set to open this Saturday at the Bukit Jalil Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.
Obiena, the pole vault expert who continues to improve his personal and national record, is looking for nothing but gold to avenge his setback in the Singapore biennial meet two years ago.
He recently registered a personal best of 5.61 meters in a tournament in Germany, completely surpassing the SEA Games standard of 5.30 meters set by Porranot Purahiong of Thailand in the previous edition of the Games.
“I’m really determined to get that (gold) medal which got away from me in Singapore,” said the 21-year old Engineering student at University of Santo Tomas.
National head coach George Posadas, meanwhile, said they want Cray to be assured of at least a gold in his two favorite events – the men’s 100-meter run and 400-meter hurdles.
Posadas explained that the organizers scheduled both events only 30 minutes apart, giving the two-time Olympian difficulty to defend his titles in both events.
“We have no choice but to make sure that he will get to defend his title in his first event, which is the 400m hurdles,” he said.
Posadas added that they are counting on long-distance runners Mary Joy Tabal and Jeson Agravante to deliver in the men’s and women’s mara-thon events.
Also tipped to deliver are Harry Diones in men’s triple jump, Trenten Berram in men’s 200-meter run, Christopher Ulboc in steeplechase, Mervin Guarte in men’s 800-meyter run, Janry Ubas in men’s long jump, Aries Toledo in decathlon and Edgardo Alejan in men’s 400-meter run.
Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association (Patafa) president Philip Ella Juico is upbeat over the country’s chances in the biennial meet.
“We are hoping to match or surpass our medal harvest in the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore,” he said, adding that overcoming their five-gold medal performance in the previous SEA Games is very doable. “With the right strategy and discipline, we can do it.”