Obiena focused on Paris

EJ Obiena proudly displays the bronze medal that he won in the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon last July. Photo by Bob Dungo

EJ Obiena is bracing for a packed 2023 season in preparation for the Paris Olympics in 2024.

Obiena said he is going to compete in five major tournaments next year in a bid to boost his standing and prepare him for his ultimate mission of winning the country’s second gold in the Summer Games.

Among the tourneys will be compete in are the Asian Indoor Athletics Championships in Kazakhstan, the Asian Championships in Thailand, the 32nd Southeast Asian Games in Cambia, the 19th Asian Games in China and the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Hungary.

In between, he will see action in various meets around Europe not just to prepare his body, but also to get used to world-class competitions that will give him a mental edge against the likes of world record holder Armand Duplantis of Sweden and Chris Nilsen of the United States.

Obiena is in the country for a three-week rest following a grueling campaign in Europe.

He won six gold medals in eight tournaments, including in the Brussels Diamond League in which he defeated Duplantis and Nilsen.

“We have the Asian Indoor in Kazakhstan, then the Asian Games, the Asian Championships, the Southeast Asian Games and the World Championships in Budapest,” said Obiena, the world’s No. 3 in men’s pole vault.

“The goal is to win. It’s the best way to approach every championship and every competition and I’m sticking with it.”

This is the first time for Obiena to be back in the country since winning the gold medal in the 30th SEA Games in Capas, Tarlac.

He said he will need all the rest he could as he plots his comeback from a forgettable 11th place finish in the previous Summer Games in Tokyo.

“The Olympic journey starts with rest. I think this will be the last time unwinding and stepping away from the nomadic day-to-day before getting back into it from October until August 2024,” the 26-year old vaulter, who flew in with his German girlfriend, said.

Since that bitter loss, Obiena has broken the Asian record twice, became the First Filipino to win a medal at the World Athletics Championships and has settled his dispute with the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association.

With Obiena getting back into the mix starting in January for the indoor season, he hopes to hit the elusive six-meter mark.

But for now, he and his head coach Vitaly Petrov of Ukraine are just waiting for the official list of events to map their season and see which competitions Duplantis will play in.

“Hopefully, I’ll be able to reach six meters. That’s the goal,” Obiena said.

“My coach will be the one deliberating it. We have a lot of competitions that we want to do to boost my ranking and boost my chances in getting into bigger meets.”

“But we’re waiting for the calendar from World Athletics and we’re looking at which competitions that Mondo’s (Duplantis) gonna do so we can sharpen my skill.”

PSC chairman Jose Emmanuel “Noli” Eala said he already discussed with Obiena his needs in his training at the World Athletics Training Center in Formia, Italy.

He also asked Obiena to share his training regimen and inspire his fellow athletes.

“We talked about his problems in general and we already have a verbal agreement to make sure those past problems won’t happen again,” Eala said.

“This will be about his coaches, his team in general and of course, I asked him what kind of training he does so that we can transfer some of the technology here in the Philippines.”

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