PHILIPPINE Athletics will be eyeing to end a three-decade medal drought in the coming Hangzhou Asian Games.
National coaches Isidro Del Prado and Dario De Rosas are one in saying world no. 2 pole vaulter EJ Obiena is the country’s best bet to finally break the podium heartbreak as he’s favored to bag the gold in his pet event.
No Filipino tracksters have brought home a medal of any color in the Asiad since Elma Muros won the bronze in the women’s long jump during the 1994 edition of the quadrennial meet in Hiroshima, Japan.
The Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) is now pinning its hopes on the broad shoulders of the 27-year-old Obiena, who is coming off a silver medal showing in the last World Athletics Championship held in Budapest, Hungary.
“Ang panalo natin si EJ sa pole vault,” said Del Prado in the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum Tuesday at the conference hall of the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Obiena is also out to complete an unfinished business in the Asiad after failing to medal in its last staging in Palembang, Indonesia where he placed seventh in the event topped by Seito Yamamoto of Japan.
As for the rest of the 13-man athletics team, both the Filipino legendary coaches are setting a modest goal to achieve.
“Ready kami ngayon sa Asiad. Hopefully, maka-sungkit ng medalya,” said De Rosas of his protégé in long jumper Janry Ubas during the same session presented by San Miguel Corporation, Philippine Sports Commission, MILO, Philippine Olympic Committee, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation.
Ubas, 29, won the gold medal in the long jump during the last Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia and copped the bronze in the heptathlon in the Asian Indoor Athletics Championship in Kazakhstan early this year. He also competed in two European tournaments in Italy and Finland in which he also went home with the gold.
Ubas is also the national record holder in the long jump with 8.08 meters, which De Rosas believes would at least give the Misamis Oriental bet a shot for the bronze should he equal or surpass his personal mark.
“Hopefully, kung makukuha niya ulit yan, puwede tayong mag-bronze medal siguro,” said De Rosas, who also coaches Sarah Dequinan (heptathlon) and Ronnie Malipay (triple jump).
As for Del Prado, the former anchor of the famed ‘Bicol Express’ 4×400 men’s relay team in the 80s, it’s going to be a tough task for the quartet of Fil-Am Umajesty Williams, Frederick Ramirez, Joyme Squita, and Michael Carlo Del Prado to achieve a podium finish.
“Malakas ang India, Japan, China, and Sri Lanka sa 4×4. Kaya nauna kong sinabi sa kanila na to give their best to break the Philippine record (3:06.47),” he said.
The same quartet won the gold in the Cambodia SEA Games, but the Asiad is an entirely different tournament.
“Hopefully, makapasok tayo sa finals,” said Del Prado, adding the semis is slated on Oct. 3 and the finals the following day.
The rest of the track and field contingent is composed of Asian Athletics Championship gold winner Robyn Brown (400 m hurdles), John Tolentino (110 m hurdles), Eric Cray (400 m hurdles), Kristina Knott (100 m and 200 m), and William Morrison (shot put).