Obiena focuses on World Indoor

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

The athletics outdoor season has ended for pole vaulter EJ Obiena and with PSC chairman Butch Ramirez announcing continued support the other day, the 25-year-old Asian record-holder is looking forward to a second Olympic trip in Paris in 2024 but the immediate concern is to prepare for the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade on March 18-20 next year.

Since qualifying for the final and ending up 11th in the Tokyo Olympics, Obiena has gone back to Europe to regroup. He recently competed in six meets, resetting his own Philippine record twice and establishing the new Asian standard of 5.93 meters to eclipse the mark registered by Kazakhstans Igor Potapovich in 1998. Obiena took the gold with 5.93 in Innsbruck and silver with 5.91 in Paris. He was fourth with 5.83 in Zurich, fourth with 5.81 in Berlin, fifth with 5.52 in Lausanne and 10th with 5.65 in Brussels. The effort promoted Obiena from No. 6 to No. 5 in the world standings.

I think I got used to my poles,” he said. “Its a big difference to have jumped with my poles multiple times and being able to trust my equipment. Im ending the season so thats it for me at the moment.” Two batches of poles were shipped for Obiena to use at the Olympics. The first arrived in his training camp in Formia, Italy but some of the poles were damaged. He brought a few of the new poles and some of his old to Tokyo for insurance. A second set was delivered to Tokyo before Obiena arrived but there was little time to get used to the new poles.

PATAFA president Philip Juico said hes in the process of building another war chest for the national athletes, both here and abroad, to train for the coming competitions, including the SEA Games. A priority is Obiena who received P300,000 from PSC, P500,000 from the MVP Sports Foundation and P300,000 from Malacañang for his Olympic participation. Additionally, PSC will award Obiena a P250,000 incentive for resetting the Philippine record in Paris and another P1.5 million for breaking the Asian record in Innsbruck.

We presented the budget for all athletes training overseas for the SEA Games and other competitions to PSC in the first week of this month,” said Juico. “The athletes include EJ, Kristina Knott, William Morrison, Yacine Guermali, Eric Cray, Natalie Uy and Robyn Brown. Theyll meet on that. Im sure if everything goes right, EJ will compete at the World Indoor in Belgrade next March.”

Obiena said he considered returning home from Tokyo. He hasnt gone to Manila since the SEA Games in 2019. “If I come home, theres a big chance I wouldnt be able to go back to Europe,” he said, “and the indoor pro season is in Europe and the World Indoor Championships will be in Serbia.”

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