A RELAXED Ernest John "EJ" Obiena had fun flying his drone toward Taal Volcano on a sunny Friday afternoon, proof that the world No. 3 pole vaulter really needs a break from a hectic European outdoor campaign and a forthcoming 18-month preparation for the Paris 2024 Olympics.
"It's time to play, I won't be back here after a long while," said Obiena, who, along with girlfriend, German long jumper Caroline Joyeaux, dad Emerson and mom Jeanette, and sister Emily Jean — enjoyed the view from the Knights Templar Hotel in Tagaytay City.
But before that, Obiena engaged Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino and expressed his gratitude to the POC for supporting his campaign the past three years that yielded a world championships bronze medal for a top 3 world ranking, an Asian record and a rare victory over Olympic champion and world record holder Armand Duplantis.
"It's a feeling of security and peace of mind," said Obiena of Tolentino's support for his campaign. "It's this assurance that someone has your back and that I can fully focus on my training and competition."
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The year 2021 and early 2022 didn't augur well for Obiena as he had to contend with a conflict with the athletics federation. But that's all behind him now and said that with the POC on his side — and that of all the other Filipino athletes — the coming months ahead of Paris 2024 would be free of distraction.
"The POC, like the IOC [International Olympic Committee], has committed to the athletes, to me specifically," he said. "And that's how it's supposed to be."
"He [Tolentino] is the right man for the job, it's calming for an athlete to have him as president of an NOC [national olympic committee]," added Obiena.
Tolentino praised Obiena for his positive attitude and vowed to sustain the POC's support for his bid for Paris 2024.
"It's a welcome relief that EJ is back home, and we at the POC fully appreciate his focus, outlook and attitude as an athlete," Tolentino said. "He needs all the support possible, like all other Filipino athletes."