MANILA, Philippines -- EJ Obiena's strong performances in the indoor athletics season have given the country's athletics chief great hope that the pole vaulter can bring home a medal in the Tokyo Olympics.
The 25-year-old Obiena put together a series of impressive outings in competitions in Europe, the most recent of which was the Orlen Cup in Poland where his mark of 5.86-meters set a new national indoor record and won him a silver medal.
Speaking at the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday, PATAFA president Philip Ella "Popoy" Juico said they are "very bullish" about Obiena's chances in the Tokyo Games this July.
"The last few weeks have been an indication of where he's headed for," said Juico. "They've been successful, at least in this indoor season after an eight-, seven-month layoff because of the pandemic."
"EJ is doing great," he added.
Obiena, one of four Filipinos who have already qualified for the Tokyo Games, has competed in five tournaments in Europe. He reached the podium three times, and won two gold medals.
He expects to compete in another tournament in Poland on February 17, and Juico is optimistic that Obiena will have a similarly impressive performance there.
"He (Obiena) is very confident, he is very upbeat about his chances," said Juico.
As Obiena keeps putting up impressive marks and goes toe-to-toe with some of the best in the world, Juico's confidence about his chances in Tokyo also increases.
"For EJ, it's a podium finish," Juico said of his expectation for the pole vaulter. "Whether gold, silver, bronze, (but) preferably gold."
"But we don't want to put too much pressure on this young man," he added.
If Obiena makes it to the podium in Tokyo, he will be the first Filipino track and field athlete to win an Olympic medal since Miguel White, who claimed the bronze in the men's 400-meter hurdles all the way back in 1936 in Berlin.
Aside from Obiena, also assured of Tokyo berths are gymnast Carlos Yulo, and boxers Irish Magno and Eumir Marcial.