EJ Obiena protecting focus inside very brief time period

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Philippines' Ernest John Obiena competes in the men's pole vault final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 3, 2021. (Photo by Ben

Philippines’ Ernest John Obiena competes in the men’s pole vault final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 3, 2021. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP)

TOKYO—EJ Obiena has set his focus on the short term for the meantime. Really short term.

“My plan for today—I only know my plan for today—is I’ll talk to my coach and try to understand what happened and we’ll move forward from there,” Obiena told reporters here and in Manila via a Zoom conference.

Obiena finished 11th in the pole vault finals of the Tokyo Olympics late Tuesday evening, an abrupt ending precipitated by technical issues on the vault area.

“If it were up to me, I’d just go home, rest and not do anything,” he said. “But that would be the irresponsible thing to do.”

Although Obiena said it was time to move on from the final at Olympic Stadium, where he failed to clear a qualifying jump of 5.80 meters, it wasn’t clear just yet what the University of Santo Tomas product would move forward to.

No future tournaments, no planes about his studies, no Paris 2024 blueprint just yet.

“We’ll see what I will be doing in the next few weeks. We’ll see what I’m going to do,” Obiena said.
“At the moment, I don’t really know if I’m going to compete, if I’m still going to continue, what I’m going to do if I do this or do that. I really don’t have an idea yet.”

Obiena added that he just wasn’t in that headspace just yet.

One thing he is going to take away from this Olympics though is that he is a world-class athlete. While eventual gold winner Mondo Duplantis is in a different plane right now, the rest of the top vaulters of the world are within Obiena’s skill range.

In fact, toppled champ Thiago Braz of Brazil settled for the bronze with a 5.87-m effort—that’s Obiena’s personal best. And American Christopher Nilsen claimed the silver medal after a personal best of 5.97m.

I was born in the Philippines, I was raised in the Philippines … and I don’t think anything is impossible,” Obiena said. “The results didn’t show yesterday but one thing I know is I can keep up with these guys. I know what I can do and I believe that and I believe in myself.”

“I hope my story gives you a little of hope, a silver lining,” he added.


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