Sean Henry Narag channels his idol EJ Obiena to win gold – rezal404

Palarong Pambansa

Pole vaulter Sean Henry Narag at the 2023 Palarong Pambansa. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines-Sean Henry Narag constantly gets fascinated each time he watches Ernest John Obiena hurdle the bar at a risky height.

The 17-year-old pole vault greenhorn imitated his idol and conquered the field on Monday to reward powerhouse National Capital Region its first gold medal at the start of the 2023 Palarong Pambansa.

Narag, who has been sharpening his skills under the tutelage of Obiena’s father Emerson, cleared a personal best of 3.90 meters at the rain-soaked Philsports track and field oval.

“Watching kuya EJ motivates me a lot. I want to be like him,” said Narag in Filipino, who shifted from being a hurdler just a year ago to his present event.

The incoming Grade 12 at University of Santo Tomas thrice attempted to jump over four meters in vain after NCR/UST teammate Mejen Sumbungan collared the silver in 3.80m and Eumar Mamogay of Western Visayas took the bronze in 3.30m.

Obiena, the Asian champion and record holder of six meters, also had humble beginnings as a spindly kid from Tondo, Manila who went to UST before taking his talents to Europe and becoming the world’s No. 2 vaulter.

“I learn a lot from my coaches, especially from coach Emerson. He’s been teaching us the proper techniques for us to become better,” said Narag. “It’s a dream to compete in the Olympics someday.”

Francis Obiena, EJ’s cousin, continues to hold the Palaro record in secondary boys at 4.30m accomplished in 2017 Antique.

“If I do well in this sport and finish my education, my family and I will have a better life,” said Narag, the son of a tricycle driver and a housewife from Tuguegarao City.

Giethyl Daze Lubguban equally shares the same perspective that energized the 12-year-old from Panikian Island, Zamboanga Del Sur to seize the first gold medal of these Games designed to discover the best student-athletes from elementary and high school nationwide.

Lubguban cleared 1.40m in her first attempt to rule the elementary girls’ high jump before a packed crowd at the Philsports stands, defeating Tarlac’s Brieyanna Nichole Camacho who managed 1.37m for the silver.

“I really enjoy competing, but I’m doing this for my parents. I want them to be proud of me,” said the teary-eyed Lubguban, who is now Grade 6 at the Upper Panikian Integrated School. Lubguban’s mother is a school teacher and her father a welder.

The 12-year-old Camacho broke down in tears after failing to hurdle 1.40m thrice while Shanelle Jane Filomino from Carles, Iloilo placed third in 1.34m.

The victories of Narag and Lubguban came ahead of the opening ceremony of the Games graced by no less than President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. late Monday afternoon at the Marikina Sports Complex.

Organized by the Department of Education with the help of the Philippine Sports Commission, competitions in the Palaro will officially begin Tuesday when the finest student-athletes see action in 14 sports in elementary and 22 sports in the secondary division over the next five days.

NCR was the perennial overall champion at least for the past 20 editions of the Palaro until 2019 in Davao City before the COVID-19 pandemic struck shelved the Games for three years.


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