After defending his Southeast Asian Games gold medal in record fashion, Filipino pole vaulter EJ Obiena is already back in training to prepare for the outdoor season of world athletics.
Obiena lived up to expectations in the 31st SEA Games in Hanoi, Vietnam, clearing 5.46-meters to set a new Games record and secure the gold medal last Saturday at the Mỹ Đình National Stadium.
It was a 1-2 finish for the Philippines as Hakkett Delos Santos claimed silver after clearing 5.00 meters.
"It's good, pole vaulting in the Philippines is finally back on top in the Southeast Asian region," Obiena said on ANC's "Headstart" on Tuesday morning.
Obiena has since left Hanoi and is back on the grind, as he is now gearing up for the outdoor season including the Wanda Diamond League.
"I'm back to training already," he said. "I'd be competing on May 28th or 29th in Italy, then I'll start the formal season. The outdoor season will be in Oslo, Diamond League in mid-June."
The Wanda Diamond League will be in Oslo, Norway on June 16.
Obiena is hopeful of a more stable campaign in the outdoor season after a less than ideal indoor season that was hampered by his feud with his own national sports association, the PATAFA, as well as a knee surgery in January.
He opened his indoor campaign in February in Berlin, and registered a season-best mark of 5.91-meters in the Perche Elite Tour in Rouen, France in March.
In April, Obiena and PATAFA settled their differences with help from the Philippine Sports Commission, and he was named the country's flag-bearer for the opening ceremonies of the SEA Games.
"I think the difficulty is just the uncertainty, 'yung hindi ko po alam kung makakalaro po ako or paano po 'yung sitwasyon," said Obiena of his difficult build-up to the SEA Games. "I think that was the most difficult part for me in this certain SEA Games."
Obiena admits that he has yet to reach the level he wants at this point in his season.
"Normally at this time, I'm already in my full approach. I'm still currently training hard, you know. I lost a bunch of my strength and my endurance back in the indoor season due to not having those stable training patterns," he explained.
"Kumakayod pa po. Kailangan nating bumalik doon sa dating, in my old fitness level," he added.
Still, Obiena had more than enough in the tank to retain his SEA Games title, an achievement he credited to his support staff.
"I have a really good physio, really good coach, really good team. To be honest, that's the secret to it," he said.