THERE’S no other way but up for Ernest John “EJ” Obiena who over the weekend sent a beacon almost six meters high to signal his arrival into world athletics’ elite circle.
Addressing a virtual news conference before a select few Filipino sportswriters on Tuesday, Obiena announced his next target: the Paris 2024 Olympics.
“That’s what I want to achieve…to do the same thing at the World Championships in the Paris Games,” the 26-year-old Obiena told reporters while in transit back to Europe where for him, “pole vaulting never stops.”
Obiena bagged the men’s pole vault bronze medal at the World Games in Eugene, Oregon, on Sunday (Monday morning in Manila) by leaping to a new Asian record of 5.94 meters. He owned the previous mark of 5.93 meters.
He was the only Asian among the 12 finalists that included Sweden’s Armand Duplantis, who reset his own world record by a centimeter with a 6.21-meter performance.
That bronze was the first medal for the Philippines at the track and field worlds, but it could have been a silver. American Christopher Nilsen cleared 5.94 meters in his first attempt to bag silver, shoving Obiena to the bronze for making the height on his second try.
“Two years, or actually a year and a half from now, that’s the plan,” said Obiena on his Paris goal.
Obiena acknowledged how invincible the US-born Duplantis is in the event, but hinted that just like in Oregon, a medal looks forthcoming for the Philippines in France.
“Mondo [Duplantis’s alias] is actually a force to be respected and reckoned with, Chris [Nilsen] is a competitor and everybody else in the field,” Obiena said. “So if it’s going to be a medal, I can’t say.”
Obiena finished 11th in a field of 12 in his Olympic debut in Tokyo last year, a finish that all but movitated the athlete born and raised in Tondo and son to former national pole vaulter Emerson and athlete Jeanette.
“Definitely I just proved to myself what I have been saying…that I can compete with these guys and I can win,” he said. “So hopefully, I’ll do the same thing or even better in Paris.”
Breaking the 6.0-meter barrier is now tops in Obiena’s agenda, which also includes accumulating qualifying points in the coming season to gain entry to Paris.
Next up for Obiena and the world’s men’s pole vault elite is the Kamila Skolimowska Memorial in Chorzow, Poland, on August 6, followed by the Hungarian Athletics Grand Prix in Szekesfehervar on August 8.
Image credits: AP