Obiena ‘must be perfect’

THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco - The Philippine Star
Obiena �must be perfect�
Filipino Olympic pole vaulter EJ Obiena bagged another gold medal after ruling the USATF Los Angeles Grand Prix in California on Saturday.

World No. 2 pole vaulter EJ Obiena must perform flawlessly to win the gold medal at the Paris Olympics. This, according to the Filipino athlete’s long-time sport psychologist, Dr. Sheryll Casuga.

“EJ needs to be perfect, given the competition.  He needs to peak at the right time, employ the right strategy, and execute optimally when it matters the most,” says Casuga,  “He needs to make the right risks to push himself beyond what even he thinks he can do to unleash the ultimate. As a sport psychologist, I have to make sure EJ has the right mindset to make that happen. The Olympics is a feat like no other but it’s also like every other competition he has been.  EJ has to draw from all the experiences he has had and do what needs to be done, this time at the highest level of competition. To prepare, I help him with self-efficacy, his belief in his ability to meet the task at hand.  Lastly, I need to make sure that he has the best mental game in competition so we strategize for that, too.”

Casuga, a graduate of the University of the Philippines before pursuing her doctorate in the US, has been working remotely with Obiena, who has been training in Italy, for roughly a decade now. She also works with American Olympic and professional athletes, helping them get to the right place mentally so as to eliminate distractions, focus on the task at hand, and consistently perform at an optimum level. She acknowledges that it has taken a wholistic approach to Obiena to this level, with a complete team led by coach Vitaly Petrov.

“More than me, EJ also has a great team that is working tirelessly to help him prepare,” she adds. “I make sure that he is able to make the most out of every day from now until the Olympics, so his coach Vitaly can work his genius and he is maximizing his training and recovery.”

Obiena competed in the LA Grand Prix Sunday Philippine time, and had a rare chance to meet with Casuga face to face to further strategize for the final push for Paris. His first task will be to make it past the preliminaries first week of August, before the final five days later. But Team Obiena believes the Asian Games gold medalist will finally achieve his dream of winning an Olympic gold medal.

In the eyes of many, his biggest obstacle is world No. 1 Mondo Duplantis, who has cleared six meters consistently the past couple of years. Obiena himself has also cleared the hallowed six-meter height. It will be the biggest test of his nerve and will.

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