IT WAS far from an ideal season but Filipino pole-vaulter EJ Obiena is grateful for the year he had competing amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Tokyo Olympics-bound Obiena saw his campaign take unexpected turns, but had it strong once he resumed his season last month.
“We finally came to say goodbye to the weird 2020 season. My 2019 self wouldn’t have predicted that 2020 would be so unpredictable. It has been a roller-coaster ride since January and still doesn’t show signs of slowing down,” Mr. Obiena, 24, wrote on his Facebook page, following his bronze-winning showing at the Rome leg of the Diamond League on Friday.
It turned out to be the last tournament for him for the season as he would not be able to compete in the Doha Diamond League later this week because of visa problems.
But despite that, Mr. Obiena takes pride and delight in having performed well, placing in the top three in six of the eight tournaments he competed in, including winning gold at the 59th Ostrava Golden Spike in the Czech Republic on Sept. 9.
He capped things off with a bronze and season-best performance in Rome where he cleared 5.80 meters, eclipsing his previous best for the year of 5.74 meters in the Ostrava tournament.
Mr. Obiena thanked everyone who was part of his interesting 2020 journey, including his Ukrainian coach Vitaly Petrov who is overseeing his training in Italy, just as he vowed to continue working hard in preparation for the rescheduled Olympics in Japan next year.
“Thank you so much for everyone who has been a part of this weird season. I would like to think we did OK, considering everything. One one’s, two two’s and three three’s with a total of 6 out of 8 decent finishes. Let’s bounce to 2021 with the lessons of 2020 and keep moving forward,” he said.
Mr. Obiena qualified for the Olympics last year and was preparing hard for it before organizers of the Games made the tough decision to push back the quadrennial sporting meet from July this year to 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Filipino pole-vaulter is among four to date who have qualified for Tokyo. The others being gymnast Carlos Yulo and boxers Eumir Felix Marcial and Irish Magno.
The Philippine Sports Commission and Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association have been rallying behind Mr. Obiena in his Olympic push notwithstanding the many challenges posted by the pandemic. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo