(2nd UPDATE) Living up to the hype and expectations, Filipino pole vaulter EJ Obiena delivered the Philippines' first gold medal of the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China on Saturday night.
Obiena needed just three jumps to clinch the gold medal while also resetting the Asian Games mark.
The 27-year-old athlete easily cleared 5.55 meters in his first attempt, but clipped the bar in his first try at the 5.75-m mark. He regrouped quickly, going over the bar with room to spare in his second attempt at 5.75-m.
With his remaining rivals failing to clear 5.75-m, Obiena clinched the gold -- fulfilling the expectations of the country who had banked on him to reach the top of the podium. By clearing 5.75-m, Obiena also shattered the old mark of 5.70-m, set by Japan's Yamamoto Seito in the 2018 Asiad in Jakarta, Indonesia.
To punctuate his victory, Obiena cleared 5.90-m in his first attempt, once again re-setting the Asian Games mark.
However, he thrice failed to clear 6.02-m, which would have been a new personal best as well as a new Asian record.
"We pushed through," Obiena told reporters after his triumph, as posted by One Sports. "I think we were able to do what we needed to do, to bring back the gold for the country which is the most important thing. No complaints about that."
China's Huang Bokai and Saudi Arabia's Hussain Al Hizam both cleared 5.65-m, but Huang took the silver on countback. The 5.65-m was a season-best mark for Al Hizamn.
Obiena acknowledged that he is aware of the expectations that he will win gold, with no less than Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Mayor Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino saying in the build-up to the Asian Games that the pole vaulter is virtually assured of the top spot.
"Meron naman pong sigurado," Tolentino said earlier this month. "Nasisigurado ko pong makaka-ginto si EJ Obiena, ang atin pong pole vaulter, dahil naging second po siya ngayon sa world."
"It's a privilege to be in this position where the whole country is literally expecting for a gold. Thank God I didn't crack," Obiena said.
Asked about his plans after the Asian Games, Obiena immediately said: "I'm resting."
Obiena has had a superb season, as he won the gold medal in the Southeast Asian Games in May as well as in the Asian Athletics Championships in July.He placed second in the World Athletics Championships in Budapest last August, clearing six meters to finish behind world record holder Mondo Duplantis. He also came second to Duplantis in the Prefontaine Classic, the finals of the Diamond League, last September 17.