By Jean Malanum
MANILA – World No. 3 pole vaulter Ernest John “EJ” Obiena will lead the athletics team to the 19th Asian Games scheduled from Sept. 23 to Oct. 8 in Hangzhou, China.
Also going to Hangzhou are Filipino-Americans Kristina Marie Knott (women’s 200m), Robyn Lauren Brown (women’s 400m hurdles), Eric Shaun Cray (men’s 400m hurdles) and William Edward Morrison III (men’s shot put), and locals Sarah Dequinan (women’s heptathlon), Ronnie Malipay (triple jump), Janry Ubas (long jump).
Competing in the women’s 4x400m relay are homegrown Jessel Lumapas and Filipino-heritage (foreign competitors with Filipino roots) athletes Maureen Emily Schrijvers, Angel Frank and Lauren Hoffman.
Coaches Dario De Rosas, Edward Lasquete, Ukrainian Vitaly Petrov and Samantha Cray will accompany the athletes, majority of whom are medalists at the Cambodia Southeast Asian Games (SEA) in June.
The Italy-based Obiena was the first Filipino to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics after posting 5.82 meters during the Diamond League-Bauhaus Galan in Sweden on July 3.
He briefly occupied the World No. 2 spot after the SEA Games but only two points separate him and second-ranked Christopher Nilsen of the United States as of Aug. 8.
The 27-year-old Obiena also won the 2023 Asian Championships in Thailand in July, setting a continental record of 5.91m.
In the Monaco leg of the Diamond League also in July, Obiena registered 5.82m to finish second behind Nilsen (5.92m).
The Team Philippines to the Asiad is composed of 395 athletes competing in 37 sports to be held in 44 venues, primarily at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Expo Center and in Deqing, Jinhua, Ningbo, Shaoxing and Wenzhou.
Leyte 4th District Rep. Richard Gomez of the fencing and modern pentathlon associations will serve as chef de mission of the Philippine delegation.
He will be assisted by sepak takraw’s Karen Tanchanco-Caballero, ice skating’s Nikki Cheng, wrestling’s Alvin Aguilar and volleyball’s Donaldo Caringal.
“The task of the CDM’s office in Hangzhou is not an easy one, considering the size of our delegation and the competition venues,” POC president Abraham Tolentino said after announcing the appointment of Aguilar and Caringal as deputy chefs de mission last week.
Hangzhou is the third Chinese city to host the Games after Beijing (1990) and Guangzhou (2010). (PNA)