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EJ Obiena says falling short in Tokyo Olympics still ‘hard pill to swallow’

By: - Online Sports Editor / @CFColinaINQ
/ 06:16 PM August 17, 2021
EJ Obiena was valiant in the pole vault finals, but failed to truly mount a challenge and finishing in 11th spot.

Philippines’ Ernest John Obiena competes in the men’s pole vault final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 3, 2021. —REUTERS

MANILA, Philippines–More than a week after the Tokyo Olympics have concluded, Filipino pole vaulter EJ Obiena admits he is still struggling to move on from the missed opportunity in the world’s grandest sporting stage.

Obiena, ranked sixth in the world in men’s pole vault, crashed out of the running for a medal in his first Olympics last August 3 after failing to hurdle the 5.80-meter clearance.

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“It has been a hard pill to swallow that I wasn’t able to perform to the best of my abilities on the day I needed it most. It’s even harder to just say ‘it is what it is’ and bad days come and go,” Obiena said in a social media post on Monday.

His personal best–which is also the national record–of 5.87m, set just before the Tokyo Games, would have been good for bronze, which was won by Rio champion Thiago Braz of Brazil.

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Obiena said in Tokyo before the qualification round that he knows he could jump 6.0 meters.

It has been a hard pill to swallow that I wasn’t able to perform to the best of my abilities on the day I needed it…

Posted by Ernest Obiena – EJ Obiena on Sunday, August 15, 2021

Instead, Obiena finished 11th in the competition ruled by Sweden’s Armand Duplantis who easily soared his way to gold (6.02m) and even came close to setting a new world record. Christopher Nilsen of United States won silver (5.97m).

“I am confident with my abilities to go against the world’s best but something didn’t click, something was missing or perhaps it just wasn’t meant to be,” Obiena said.

“These are thoughts that wake me up at night with cold sweat and a heavy chest but then days pass and nights fall and yet here I am still wondering. What was it that I missed?”

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After his loss, Obiena–the lone Asian to have made it to the medal round and arguably the best athletics stand out from the country–couldn’t hide his disappointment, saying his goal wasn’t just to make it to the final no matter how prestigious that already was.

“I did not come to Tokyo 2020 Olympics to experience the Olympics. I did not come to just ‘Make the final.’ I came to win a medal for my country. This goal was not achieved,” Obiena said in a post last August 4.

But the 25-year-old bet, who returned to Italy where he’s been residing and training the past years, is determined to move forward to the next chapter.

“I took a step back and realized I haven’t accepted those thoughts as facts and I am yet to throw in the towel. Still hungry and still yearning for a better me. Thank you for all the love and support, I greatly appreciate it. Onto the next chapter.”

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