EJ Obiena prepares for the Paris Olympics

EJ Obiena Reflects On His ‘Human Side’ As He Sets His Eyes On Paris

After a ninth-place finish in the World Indoor Athletics Championships, EJ Obiena is ready to move on to his main goal for the year: the Paris Olympics.

The pressure of the 2024 Paris Olympics might weigh a little bit heavier on EJ Obiena than any other Filipino Olympian, and understandably so. After a stellar 2023 season that saw him achieve milestone after milestone — joining the highly exclusive six-meter pole vault club, jumping to second in the Men’s Pole Vault World Rankings, and becoming the first Filipino to qualify for Paris — expectations for EJ’s success are high.

It’s no wonder, then, that EJ was disappointed in his ninth-place finish at the World Indoor Athletics Championships in Glasgow, Scotland on March 4, 2024.

“I’m upset with how the competition went,” Obiena admitted at a recent press conference. “The harsh thing there is that I know I could have [finished on the podium], which is what makes it more painful psychologically.”

In the World Indoor Championships, the Filipino Olympian only managed to clear 5.65 meters in two attempts. Following this, he attempted to clear 5.85 meters and 5.90 meters, however, he was unable to do so on all three of his attempts.

“The human side of me showed,” he expressed.

“Things didn’t go the way I wanted them to go and there are always variables. If there was a way to go back in time and redo it, I would, but the fact of the matter is that I knew going into Indoors, it was going to be tough, it was going to be risky…But this is not the goal of this year. The goal is Paris 2024.”

Sights on Paris
(Photo credit: EJ Obiena on Instagram)

Despite feeling disappointed in this result, EJ Obiena acknowledged that this is the reality of being an athlete. After all, he has been on this journey since he was a kid.

“My dad started me in this event. It went from me following my dad’s footsteps to having an injury at 17 and actually realizing that I love the sport more than it just being my dad’s passion. From there on it’s been a journey that I didn’t expect to flourish to a moment such as [the Paris Olympics]. The journey has been nothing short of amazing, I’m very blessed to be in the position I’m at, and this sport has brought me to places I’ve never been and I’m very grateful.”

Reflecting on his long journey as a pole vaulter, Obiena now sets his sights on the Paris Olympics.

Touching on his preparations for the Summer Games, he said, “With pole vaulting, we compete quite a lot so we can gauge our ability. I’ve been pretty consistent in clearing over five meters, and that’s why I took the risk in the World Indoors, and it just didn’t pan out…But the marks I’m hitting, I’m hitting them pretty consistently, and in sports, consistency is one of the traits you aim to have.”

Given this, EJ is able to move on from his most recent tournament, which he calls a “setback”, and focus on the next major tournament: the USATF LA Grand Prix in May to kick off his outdoor season.

Although he is slated for multiple tournaments before the Olympics officially begins in late July, he still emphasizes that Paris is his main focus for the year. As it stands, his preparations are all aimed at this big tournament, and with still a few months to go, he happily shares that things are looking good.

“So far so good. Things are going the way we planned and it’s just still a few more months of work to go and I think we’re hitting the right markers at the right time. It should be interesting come [the Olympics].”

Images from EJ Obiena on Instagram.

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