‘At peace’ with effort, EJ Obiena establishes himself among PH’s greatest ever
TOKYO—EJ Obiena gave a lot of clarity about what happened before his final jump in the pole vault final of the Tokyo Olympics here Tuesday night, adding that although the incident would “haunt” him, he was “at peace” with the effort he gave.
“It didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to be,” said Obiena during a Zoom conference. “It didn’t feel like I was able to do what I can.”
“I gave everything I can and I’m at peace with that,” he added. “Sometimes [things] don’t work and that’s something that will haunt me for quite some time.”
Obiena finished tied for 11th at Olympic Stadium, in the event that was ruled by the incomparable Mondo Duplantis of Sweden. The 25-year-old athletics star failed to clear 5.80 meters that would have allowed him to advance further.
“I wasn’t feeling like myself. I don’t know if it’s the pressure. I don’t know if there was something off in my technique. I don’t know if it’s something physical. I don’t really know because if I knew I would have been able to adjust,” Obiena said.
“All throughout the competition, I didn’t feel like I was in control with the way I jumped. I was more kinda following what the pole asked me to do, which is unusual. I haven’t felt that for quite some time. The way I was jumping, it’s a little bit strange.”
“Clearing 5.50 [meters] didn’t really feel good. I made the bar, I understand that. But it didn’t feel good. It didn’t feel like I’m jumping the way I’m [capable of] jumping. To be honest I was on the pole I used when I jumped [5.87 meters, his personal best]. I was already using it at [5.70]. So I know I can make big bars on that pole.”
Things, however, would have been different if his last attempt wasn’t marred by a technical issue.
Obiena aborted his last try after he noticed the clock was still running while the uprights, vertical stands that hold the bar that vaulters clear, was still being adjusted.
“I basically asked them to move the standards to 65 when the timer was already running. I was telling them I cannot jump if the bar is moving. I said you should have at least paused the time,” Obiena said.
The officials eventually saw the validity in his argument and gave him a final re-jump. But with his focus already jarred, Obiena clipped the bar and was eliminated from preceding to the next qualifying mark.
“[The incident] exhausted needed energy from him,” said Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) official Edward Kho. “In that high level of competition, he needs to be singularly focused. There should be no distractions, no emotions.”
An emotional Patafa chief Philip Ella Juico praised Obiena and sprinter Kristina Knott for all the hard work and sacrifice they put in to make it to the Olympics.
“I’ve seen the effort of these two people,” said Juico, whose voice cracked several times during the webcast. “And I’m happy they did their best for their country, their family, and their sport.”
Obiena will still go down as arguably the greatest athletics standout from the Philippines, having reached the an Olympic final. He was also the only Asian to qualify for the medal round.
While Turkey is generally situated in Asia, it doesn’t compete in the Asian Games and is not part of the Olympic Council of Asia. In world basketball, it qualifies in the European zone.