THE way Ernest John “EJ” Obiena has been performing this season makes him a cinch for an Olympic medal next year in Paris, according to Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino.
“He’s making sure he’ll get there,” said Tolentino Monday, a day after Obiena cleared 6.0 meters for the second time this year to finish with a silver medal at the world athletics championships in Budapest on Sunday.
“It’s not only skills and physicality that’s gone elite on EJ, but his focus and mental approach to his sport,” Tolentino added.
It was only Olympic champion and world record holder Armand Duplantis who stood on Obiena’s way for the gold medal in Hungary.
The Swede won a second consecutive world championships title at 6.10m with Obiena providing Duplantis a tough challenge—the Asian record holder attempted 6.05 and even 6.10, proof of his warrior-attitude on the field.
“It’s a year to go before Paris, one full year for EJ to get better and better,” Tolentino said. “He’ll have plenty of time to focus on setting the bar higher, and qualifying for Paris won’t be one of his challenges anymore, he’s in.”
Obiena almost went perfect in the current season by making the podium in 19 of 20 indoor and outdoor competitions he participated in.
The Asian and Southeast Asian Games champion Obiena has also already beaten Duplantis at the Diamond League’s leg in September last year in Brussels where he won the gold with 5.91m with Duplantis finishing with the silver after clearing only 5.81m.
Obiena also bagged silver at the Monaco Diamond League last July 23 when Duplantis settled for fourth place.
Next up for Obiena, who was 11th among 12 finalists in his Olympic debut in Tokyo 2020, are the Asian Games next month in Hangzhou, and with no Asian pole vaulter approximating his numbers, Tolentino said he’s a cinch there, too.
But Tolentino is hoping for more Filipino athletes to earn tickets to Paris in the Olympic qualifying window that ends June 30 next year.
The Asian Games, Tolentino said, also offer berths to Paris.
“We’re hopeful for more Filipino athletes to get to Paris via Hangzhou,” he said.