Obiena goes fundamental in Cambodia


PHNOM PENH—It’s as simple as 1-2-3 to predict that Ernest John “EJ” Obiena is guaranteed to repeat as men’s pole vault gold medalist at the 32nd Southeast Asian Games.

Obiena’s the Asian record holder with a leap of 5.94 meters and was practically unchallenged with the 5.46-meter effort that made him pole vault champion in Hanoi last year—fellow Filipino Hocket de los Santos was some half a meter lower at 5 meters flat for the silver medal and Malaysia’s Iskandar Alwi couldn’t even break 5 in clinching bronze with a 4.80-meter effort.

But Obiena’s not taking chances when pole vault is played on Monday at the Morodok Techno National Stadium in the Cambodian capital.

“He [Obiena] has been investing in fundamentals which will give him the foundations to go higher when it comes to strength and technique,” Obiena’s personal adviser Jim Lafferty told BusinessMirror.

The world No. 3 Tokyo Olympian will hit Phnom Penh straight from a training camp in Alicante, Spain. The SEA Games, he and his handlers say, will be his springboard to the upcoming outdoor season.

“EJ was in a great place [Alicante] mentally and geared up to have a tremendous outdoor season starting with the SEA Games,” Lafferty said. “His strength and speed are at an all-time high. He’s never been faster or stronger.”

Obiena was with his legendary trainer Vitaly Petrov of Ukraine in Alicante.

Despite his bronze medal from the world championships last year, Phnom Penh remains high in the 27-year-old Obiena’s list.

“He’s continuously working with Coach Petrov on adjustments to his approach and other technical elements, and sharpening his mental game,” Lafferty said. “I think it’s going to be a great and highly-fulfilling SEA Games for him.”

Obiena’s father, Emerson who’s a former national pole vaulter himself, will oversee his performance in the SEA Games and will be in constant contact with Petrov.

Obiena will be going for his third straight SEA Games gold medal despite the SEA Games having no effect on his qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympics and even the world championships in August in Budapest.

“I need to win the gold for all the Filipinos, it’s a must,” Obiena told BusinessMirror. “I want to make all Filipinos very happy. It’s very important in the medal standings for Team Philippines.”

Emerson Obiena is cautious.

“We never know what may happen,” said the elder Obiena, who picked Thailand as having leveled up with its pole vaulers. “The Thais are slowly progressing but coach Petrov doesn’t want him to peak as early as now because there are bigger and more important competitions later this year.”

Sprinter Eric Shauwn Cray, meanwhile, said he is highly-motivated to get his sixth straight gold medal—eighth overall—in the 400-meter hurdles set for Thursday at the same venue.

“It’s definitely hotter here in Cambodia in terms of the weather, but that’s good,” said Cray, who’s been bothered by a hamstring injury. “I feel good despite coming off some injuries earlier.”

Fifty-one Filipino athletes including Hanoi gold medalist Kyla Richardson are competing in athletics hoping to surpass the five gold medals won in Hanoi last year.

Read full article on BusinessMirror