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Obiena polishes fundamentals on road to Olympic gold


OLYMPICS-bound pole vaulter EJ Obiena is rebuilding his conditioning for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan after the Games were rescheduled next year from July 23 to August 8 due to worldwide quarantine restrictions on sporting events and mass gatherings.

EJ Obiena displays his winning form during the men’s pole vault event of the 18th Asian
Games in 2018 at the GBK Grand Stadium in Jakarta, Indonesia. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Although Obiena admits disappointment at the postponement of the Olympics this year, the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games gold medalist told reporters during a news conference on Sunday evening via Google Meet that he has already accepted his fate as an athlete caught in global forces beyond his control and is focusing on matters that he can actually bend to his will.


“[I am at the] rebuilding stage or foundation training,” said Obiena, who is currently staying and working out in Formia, Italy. “We [were] planning to peak by around June or July this year, but it [obviously isn’t] going to happen now. Basically, we just have to continue the preparation in a [different] way.”

“We are going to make the foundation training a little bit longer. We have to peak in August. We have to stay sharp. That’s how you improve: you compete. So, we try to prepare for those IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) competitions that [are] going to happen,” he said.

Obiena is presently being trained by Ukrainian coach Vitaly Petrov in Italy together with 2016 Rio Olympic pole vault gold medalist Thiago Braz da Silva, who may just turn out to be his major competitor in next year’s Olympics.

“Then, we are going back again to the foundation, which would basically [mean reverting] to the regular training or regular season calendar,” said Obiena.

So far, he controls his diet and watches his weight carefully. At the same time, he aims to maintain a consistent jump, breaching the 5.80-meter mark in every competition.

In the previous SEA Games pole vault competition held in the Philippines last December, Obiena reached 5.45 meters to attain the gold medal.

But his biggest break last year came when he qualified for the Olympics in September after surpassing the 5.80-meter qualifying standard with a record-breaking 5.81 meters, garnering the gold at the 2019 Salto Con L’asta tournament in Piazza Chiari, Italy.

He also said his coach has been encouraging him to stay strong as a real athlete should during trying times, telling him to be ready at any given situation, at any given time and at any given place.

“To be honest, at the start, I [didn’t] want [the Olympics] to be postponed, but now I do [accept the situation]. I felt [that even] if I don’t have [any Games this year], what I’m really preparing for [is not the time of competition but the timeless Olympic competition itself]. That’s [been] my whole mindset since last year [anyway],” rationalized the 24-year-old athlete.

“I have a little bit [of time] lost for [training], maybe, a few weeks. But the wake-up call, in a way, for me is [realizing] it is not really [a] matter [of] whether the Olympics will be this year or next year or whenever it is. I’m still going to train, improve my stuff [and] work on my weaknesses each day,” he affirmed.

For sustaining the support for Obiena as part of its Olympic buildup, the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association, headed by president Philip Ella Juico, is thankful to the Philippine Sports Commission for its funding.


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