By Jean Malanum
MANILA – World’s No. 3 pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena will lead the 17-member Philippine team to the 10th Asian Indoor Athletics Championships scheduled from Feb. 10 to 12 in Nur Sultan, Kazakhstan.
Joining him are Fil-Americans Kristina Marie Knott (women’s 60-meter), Natalie Uy (women’s pole vault), Eric Shaun Cray (men’s 60-meter and 400-meter) and William Edward Morrison III (men’s shot put), and locals Hockett Delos Santos (men’s pole vault), Mark Harry Diones (men’s triple jump), Leonard Grospe (men’s high jump), Janry Ubas (men’s long jump and heptathlon), John Cabang (men’s 60-meter hurdles), Mariano Masano and Edwin Giron Jr. (men’s 800-meter), Michael Carlo Del Prado (men’s 400-meter), Jelly Dianne Paragile and Melissa Escoton (women’s 60-meter hurdles), and Alexie Mae Caimoso and Sarah Dequinan (women’s pentathlon).
Cray, Del Prado, Giron and Masano will also compete in the 4x400m relay event.
“This is the earliest international competition available with the highest possible World Athletics points to be gained,” said Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) Secretary General Edward Kho on Tuesday when asked why the Kazakhstan event was chosen as the team’s first exposure.
Obiena (1394 points) is behind Swedish Armand Duplantis (1601) and American Christopher Nilsen (1430) based on the World Athletics rankings, as of Dec. 27, 2022.
“We are sending our best athletes who have higher chances of winning medals since this is an Asian-level competition,” said coach Sean Guevarra who, together with coach Dario de Rosas, will accompany the athletes.
The national athletics team is preparing for three major tournaments this year — the Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia (May 5-17), Asian Games in Hangzhou, China (Sept. 23-Oct. 8), and the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Bangkok-Chonburi, Thailand (Nov. 17-26).
Last December, the team competed at the Thailand Open where it scooped five gold, six silver, and four bronze medals.
The gold medal winners were Masano (800m), Dequinan (heptathlon), Del Prado, Edgardo Alejan Jr., Joyme Sequita and Francis Medina (4x400m relay), John Albert Mantua (men’s shot put) and Alfrence Braza (men’s 1,500m).
The silver medalists were Grospe (high jump), Masano (1500m), Grospe, Del Prado (400m), Ubas (long jump), Katherine Khay Santos (women’s long jump) and Joida Gagnao (women’s 3,000m steeplechase).
The bronze medalists were Gagnao (5,000m), Medina (400m hurdles), Delos Santos (pole vault) and the 4x100m Santos, Eloiza Medina, Escoton and Paragile (4x100m).
During the 2022 Vietnam SEA Games, the Philippines finished third in athletics with five gold, seven silver, and 14 bronze medals.
The five gold medals came from Obiena, Cray (400-meter hurdles), Morrison (shot put), Clinton Bautista (110-meter hurdles), and Fil-Am Kayla Richardson (100-meter). (PNA)