‘All-out war’

THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco - The Philippine Star
�All-out war�
EJ Obiena

EJ Obiena is faced with the greatest challenge of his life at the Paris Olympic pole vault event on Aug. 3 and 5. Since finishing below expectations in Tokyo, he has been relentlessly pursuing improvement, participating in two competitions in Croatia and Germany just this week, and the World Indoor Athletics Championshop second week of March. He is very clear about his motivation.

“I’ve not won Olympics! That’s what we’re chasing, you know,” the 28-year old gushes. “That’s gonna be a new extreme. We chase those extreme emotions and I think, as an athlete, it’s only natural for us to aim a little bit higher every time, because the constant chase of that winning moment, that ability to write history, there would come a time when it would really be not possible.  I can’t describe it because I haven’t done it, but I know it’s going to be amazing.”

To ensure the gold, the goal in the next five months would be to regularly clear six meters, a feat painfully few have achieved in recent years. Obiena himself leaped six meters in claiming the Asian Games gold medal in Hangzhou, China last year. But his biggest rival and world No. 1 Armand Duplantis has cleared it no less than 60 times, resetting the world record seven times in the process. In the 2022 season, the Swedish-American cleared six meters 22 times on his way to being crowned World Male Athlete of the Year. Mondo owns the current global standard of 6.23 meters.

“Jumping six meters is not an easy task,” world No. 2 Obiena admits. I know that. “Going up, I knew that. For me, my goal is really to just close that gap that I have with Mondo. I do believe I also am capable of jumping consistently at that height.“

Bear in mind, Obiena has beaten Duplantis before, so he knows that he can do it. All he has to do is keep his mind clear, and carry with him all of the hard-earned incremental improvements over the past few years. Bottomline, all it will take is one superhuman leap in the final in Paris on Aug. 5. One leap for the ages, for the gold, and for immortality.

“It would take everything I have on that day. That’s for sure. There’s not a single doubt in my head that it would take everything that I got. It wouldn’t be Olympics if it’s not like that.”

All that remains is to rise to this challenge of a lifetime.

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