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A common goal

Their training journeys may be different, but pole vaulter Obiena and boxer Magno are bound by prize and circumstance

Ernest John Obiena came up with a performance in the star-studded IAAF Diamond League in Monaco on Friday (early Saturday in Manila), one that was worth more than its podium finish.

Thousands of kilometers away, meanwhile, boxer Irish Magno looks forward to returning home and finding a way to make sure she doesn’t lose the gains she has already made in training.

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Two athletes with two different paths bound by one goal: Next year’s rescheduled Tokyo Olympics.

Obiena and Magno are two of the four athletes already qualified for the Summer Games. Gymnastics world champion Carlos Yulo and boxing ace Eumir Felix Marcial also have tickets to Tokyo already.

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Obiena has scored a major milestone in his journey to the Olympiad.

“This is a significant event for the Philippines and I’m proud to deliver,” Obiena wrote in a Facebook post after the a third place finish in the pole vault event of the prestigious international tournament.

Pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena, a Southeast Asian Games champion, bags a bronze in Italy. —MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

For one, Obiena got a chance to measure himself against a field that is expected to crowd the hunt for the pole vault gold in Tokyo.

Sweden’s Armand Duplantis cleared 6 meters to take the gold. Belgium’s Ben Broeders logged 5.70 m, which Obiena matched. Broeders, however, won the silver after hitting the mark on his first try. Obiena, a University of Santo Tomas student, cleared the height on his second try.

“I’m truly grateful. Thank you for all the prayers,” Obiena wrote in his post. “Third time playing this tournament and finished third.”

Italy’s Claudio Stecchi placed fourth, while Obiena’s training mate, 2016 Olympics champ Thiago Braz of Brazil was fifth with identical 5.50 best jumps.

More importantly, the bronze-medal finish validated a blueprint to creating “Olympic-class” athletes.

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“He’s got spectacular coaching, he’s playing in selected tough competitions, and with full support of everybody,” local athletics chief Phillip Ella Juico told the Inquirer. “These are what you need to have Olympic-class athlete.”

And this is Magno’s problem. She currently has logged her 14th and last day in quarantine in Iloilo province and will finally get to go home, but her mind is preoccupied with one thing.

“I still want my training to continue. Once I stop, I know that [my progress goes] back to zero,” she said in Filipino during the latest episode of Inquirer Sports’ “Home & Away” series, which airs on Facebook soon.

Unlike Obiena, however, Magno’s training won’t be as streamlined. While Obiena trains with Braz under Ukrainian coach Vitaly Petrov in a camp in Formia, Italy, Magno will have to cobble a program from different think tanks.

Speaking from the makeshift quarantine facility at Janiuay Pilot Elementary School, Magno said she has already reached out to old mentors—the ones who taught her the basic fundamentals of the sport at the age of 16—and added that they have devised a training plan for her bid in the Tokyo Summer Games, which was moved to next year.

“We’re in communication,” she said. “They did not even hesitate. They said they would provide help through mitt work or partner play since they’re just near [my place]. They told me to just text them with whatever I might need.”

“They also said they’d help me with the program [the national] coaches would give me,” she added. “It will be a collaboration.”

Irish Magno is glad to be home, but says there is an urgent need to return to her training program. —SHERWIN VARDELEON

And while Obiena trains with Braz, an Olympic champion, Magno’s training partners will come from home.

“My sibling is there for me, too, should I ever need more help with the mitts,” she said.

There are two things Magno shares with Obiena, though.

One is the challenge of training in the face of a health crisis and the restrictions it carries. Magno, in fact, has already dropped plans to set up camp in a nearby gym.

“I’ve been told train at home if it’s possible,” she said, claiming the risks were too high. “I’m planning on making punching bags.”

The other? Neither one will back down from the challenge of presenting the country its first Olympic gold medal.

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TAGS: Ernest John Obiena, Irish Magno, Tokyo Olympics
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