Busy year ahead for EJ

Joaquin Henson - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — World No. 3 pole vaulter EJ Obiena said yesterday he’ll be back in action to start the European indoor season with four competitions early next year before bringing his act to Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, for the 10th Asian Indoor Championships on Feb. 10-12. The other highlights of Obiena’s calendar are the SEA Games in Cambodia in May, Asian Championships in Thailand in July, World Outdoor Championships in Hungary in August and Asian Games in China in September.

Obiena, 26, is in town on a three-week holiday from his training camp in Formia, Italy. He came with his German girlfriend Caroline Joyeux, a triple jumper, two weeks ago and will stay another week. Joyeux left for Berlin last Thursday to resume training on Monday. Obiena has been busy doing the rounds of thanking sponsors for their support, taking off for a brief trip to Palawan, bonding with family and friends and making media appearances. Tomorrow, he will attend the flag ceremony at the Manila City Hall as Mayor Honey Lacuna’s guest at 7:30 a.m.

Once Obiena is back in camp, it’ll be all business with Ukrainian coach Vitaliy Petrov. He missed the opportunity of improving his world ranking to No. 2 after failing to earn an invite to compete in the Diamond League Finals in Zurich last Sept. 7-8.  “I was a point short of qualifying,” said Obiena. “I could’ve made it but there were four competitions I skipped during the season, two because of COVID. If I made it to Zurich and beat Chris (Nilsen), I would’ve moved up to world No. 2.” After missing Zurich, Obiena won back-to-back golds at the Golden Fly Series in Liechtenstein and Gala del Castelli in Bellinzona, Switzerland. He registered a big win at the Diamond League in Brussels last Sept. 2, claiming the gold as world No. 1 Mondo Duplantis finished second and world No. 2 Nilsen third. He ended the season with eight podium finishes in eight competitions over three weeks up to Sept. 13 and bagged six golds.

Obiena is lined up for several competitions to earn 2024 Paris Olympic qualifying points. He said while the world’s top vaulters are extremely competitive, they actually hang out off the turf. “Mondo’s amazing,” said Obiena. “He hates to lose in anything even ping-pong which we sometimes play. Mondo loves playing golf. A vaulter to watch is 21-year-old Pal Haugen Lillefosse of Norway, now world No. 9 who has jumped 5.86.”


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