EJ Obiena getting the bronze in the World Athletics Championships pole vault is a topper for a slew of historic good news happening recently in Philippine sports.
There are the female footballers crushing the competition and becoming champions in the ASEAN Football Federation, the young weight lifters hauling baskets of gold in the Asian Youth and Junior Weightlifting Championships, and the dusky tennis sensation Alex Eala moving up further in world rankings.
The media reports on EJ Obiena oftentimes narrate his hurdles not on the field but with Philippine sports officials who, last year, opted to rake him in public for alleged anomalous liquidation of public funds. The Commission of Audit eventually cleared him but not after this ugly exercise of power imperiled the athlete’s participation in the recent ASEAN Games.
Pole vaulting is a riveting but potentially perilous sports, so I discovered - thanks to Obiena. But I will not talk about him but, rather, of other serendipitous finds in this field.
Faster. Stronger. Higher. A pole vaulter has to be all of those and more. He/she has to have timing, synchronicity, focus, grace, and courage. Watch her at the starting line and notice how deep she is talking to herself, concentrating, generating connectivity with her pole.
Then she bursts into a run, gathering speed to build momentum, holding the pole like a lance. While running, she plants the end of the pole just below the bar, grips the pole tighter, and hurls herself into the air, 4 to 5 meters high.
The fiberglass pole bends because of the weight and force but snaps back straight catapulting the athlete higher. At that point, she is upside down and her back is to the horizontal bar.
To cross that, she twists her whole body to face the bar and throws herself over it. She lets go of the pole, and she surrenders to gravity, falling on to the foam below. In one fluid motion.
Pole vaulting, assessed athletes and coaches, is a dangerous sport. In the USA, there have been cases of unsupervised students cracking their skull and breaking their bones due to the sport. Chris Hord, an assistant pole vault coach, was quoted as saying that he “has known more deaths in pole vault than any other sport.”
It becomes fascinating, therefore, to discover numerous female pole vaulters who look like beauty queens or lovely actresses and attracting thousands of online followers. While pole vaulting has always been a medal event in the Olympics since 1896, the women’s version only started in 2000.
The Internet has me profiled successfully and keeps feeding me these visuals of pulchritude, as it apparently does to other men all over the world. “We meet again, distinguished gentlemen” jokes a follower who probably sees familiar names of admirers, particularly of beautiful and strong sportswomen.
One Internet sensation is Clara Fernandez of Barcelona, Spain, she of pan de sal abs, crescent moon behind, and angelic face. She won her first medal at the age 15 and has won several Spanish and European medals in that sport. Accounts of her says she is improving. I hope so, her highest vault is only 4 meters.
Another beauty, Polina Kronoz of St Petersburg, Russia, has achieved 4.75 meters. That is a few increments away from the 5.05 meters, an Olympic record established in Beijing by Polina’s own compatriot, Yelena Isinbayeva, who looks stoic but seems to be crybaby.
There is Chiara Sistermann of Germany, Angelika Bengstonn of Sweden, Sonia Malavisi of Italy, and many more. Followers compile, edit, and post montages of these into, say, The Ten Hottest Pole Vaulters in Tokyo Olympics.
You would notice that many of these women pole vaulters put on makeup and the effort to look glamorous, even if their scanty shorts expose much of their butt cheeks.
Preparing for competition is punishing because they have to be tough and yet flexible at the same time. They work with weights, medicine balls, ropes, and twist and bend their bodies. They practice falls in various angles and, I suppose, body aches. They develop blisters on their palms.
And when they appear in public, they still look gorgeous. Some maintain IG accounts and promote themselves, posting photos of themselves in sexy and steamy attires and poses. Not all who create Internet sensation are able to withstand the attention, though. One such beauty who wilted from the public eye was Allison Stoke of the USA. She became a “sex symbol against her will.” After a promising start with her breaking records, she gradually faded away.
These are what EJ Obiena has led me learn about, aside from the enormous egos that continue to erode Philippine sports.