AFTER beating the mighty Armand Duplantis just before the weekend in Brussels, so much has evolved within Ernest John “EJ” Obiena’s body and mind that he’s turned mad about winning—and staying on track to his ultimate goal of winning at the Olympics.
“What EJ has been doing over the past two weeks is unprecedented,” James Michael “Jim” Lafferty told BusinessMirror over the weekend. “The uneducated would call it ‘mad.’ Over 19 days, he’s competed in seven events across five countries.”
Lafferty is Obiena’s former coach and confidante whose CV is packed with remarkable credentials that include being an Olympic athletics coach and fitness trainer on top of his accomplishments in the global corporate arena.
Lafferty traces Obiena’s abrupt improvement to legendary Ukrainian pole vault coach Vitaly Petrov, who’s not only been coaching Obiena but has embraced the Asian men’s record holder like a son.
“Vitaly Petrov knows the method of ‘madness’ that sharpens Obiena’s mental toughness not only his body through high levels of stress,” Lafferty said. “There’s a method to madness—the fundamental principle of physiology is the ‘Overload Principle’ … … to grow, one must undergo progressively higher levels of stress.”
Duplantis has won every major international competition he’s competed in for close to three years. He’s an Olympic and world champion, not to mention a world record holder in the event with a seemingly untouchable 6.21 meters.
The Swede wonder set the record last July at the Oregon world championships, the same competition where Obiena clinched for the country a historic first medal—a bronze—that pushed him to world No. 3 behind Duplantis and American Christopher Nilsen.
Last Friday, Obiena scratched Duplantis shimmering armor by winning gold at the Wanda Diamond League’s Memorial Van Damme in Brussels.
He leapt to 6.91 meters, only 3 cms off his Asian record, with Duplantis going sub-6.0 meters with 6.81 for the silver and Nielson clearing 5.71 for the bronze.
Obiena will undergo a specially-designed but brutal 18-month program as Petrov sharpens him for the Paris 2024 Olympics, according to Lafferty.
“EJ is tired and he’ll soon take a month’s off during the [outdoor] season break,” Lafferty said. “But as illustrated by his performances, his body and mind are strengthening under this stress to stratospheric heights.”
“And come Paris he will be ready, battle ready,” Lafferty added.
Obiena, 26, picked four gold medals in the last 10 days in his European outdoor campaign. Overall, he has seven golds since retaining the title in the 31st Hanoi Southeast Asian Games last May.
Obiena returned to Germany for the ISTAF Berlin tourney on Sunday and will conclude his outdoor competitions on September 11 at the Golden Fly in Shaan, Liechtenstein.