Obiena admits pandemic takes toll on his physical, mental preparations for Tokyo Olympics

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 6) – Despite winning a silver medal in a recent tournament in Italy, Filipino pole vaulter EJ Obiena revealed the COVID-19 pandemic affected his physical and mental preparations for the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics.

In an interview with CNN Philippines’ Rico Hizon on Thursday, the Italy-based Obiena admitted the postponements and cancellations of several pole vaulting tournaments he could have joined shaped his poor athletic condition and mindset.

“I was really rusty and I was really out of the zone of the usual competition," Obiena said. "I wasn’t really clicking and I made a lot of wrong adjustments.”

The Filipino pole vaulting sensation added it was a last-minute decision to join the 13th Trivento International Meeting in Trieste, Italy where he nabbed the silver medal on Tuesday. He needed to join the competition to prepare for the bigger Diamond League tournament on Aug. 14.

Obiena cleared 5.45 meters in the Trivento meet, where he was behind Brazilian Olympic champion Thiago Braz de Silva (5.50 meters) and ahead of hometown bet Max Mandusic (5.35 meters).

The reigning Southeast Asian Games champ and record-holder stressed he was not contented with his performance in his last tournament, saying he is targeting to clear 5.60 meters or higher to have a good form before the Summer Olympics in July 2021.

Despite the challenges in training for his first Olympic stint, Obiena said he is eager to train harder as sports facilities are now open in Italy and life there is slowly going back to normal.

“I’ve missed this," he said, referring to training. "It’s been a really long time. I think seven months without competition is a tough time. So I have some sense of direction on what am I actually preparing for.”

Obiena is the first Filipino to qualify for the postponed Tokyo Olympics after clearing 5.81 meters in an athletics meet in Italy in September 2019.