Filipino pole vaulter EJ Obiena expressed his pride at the performance of Team Philippines in the 31st Southeast Asian Games, noting that they are doing "better than expected" considering the challenges they encountered in the build-up to the biennial event.
Obiena contributed to the Philippines' gold medal haul last Saturday with a record-breaking performance in the men's pole vault. He cleared 5.46 meters to set a new SEA Games record and retain the gold that he won in 2019.
Hokkett delos Santos cleared 5.00 meter to make it a 1-2 finish for the Philippines.
"I think we're doing better than expected, especially [since] the Philippines was hit by COVID quite hard," Obiena said in an appearance on ANC's "Headstart" on Tuesday morning.
"Most of the Filipino athletes that were training locally weren't able to train as much as possible, as much as they would want to," he noted. "But then as you can see, ang Filipino magaling tayo gumawa ng paraan. We're able to pull it off, we're still holding medals."
As of Tuesday afternoon, the Filipino athletes had already delivered 31 medals to stay in third place in the medal table. The Philippine athletics team has delivered three golds, with Clinton Bautista (110m hurdles) and William Morrison III (shot put) also ruling their respective events.
Obiena was in awe of fellow Tokyo Olympian Carlos Yulo, who has emerged as the most bemedalled Filipino athlete so far in Vietnam with five gold medals, including the individual all-around in gymnastics. The Philippine gymnastics team has so far won seven golds.
"Caloy just really showed who he is, five golds, two silver. There's nothing much more I can add to that. We're doing great," said Obiena.
Obiena has already left Vietnam and is back in training as he gears up for the outdoor season, but he continues to monitor the progress of Team Philippines.
While the top of the medal table may be out of reach -- host Vietnam has won 91 medals as of Tuesday -- Obiena has no doubt that more golds are on the way for the Filipino athletes.
"Ate Hidilyn [Diaz] still hasn't started her campaign," he said, referring to the Olympic weightlifting champion. "There's gonna be more medals to come, and it will be a memorable one."