MANILA -- Filipino pole vault king EJ Obiena’s ordeal at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games was not only about the inclement weather conditions he had to deal with inside the Morodok Techo National Stadium.
The three-time gold medalist bared that while waiting whether the officials push through or postpone the pole vault finals, inconsistencies “triggered” him and led him to taking the competition a bit more personally and setting the SEA Games record.
“Due to the rain, we stopped for at least an hour. We didn’t even know if it was going to push through. The Thai team wanted to postpone it to the next day, but it was actually the officials who were going to decide, if you postpone it or continue,” Obiena told ABS-CBN Sports content lead Migs Bustos.
“Some stuff happened between that time that triggered me. I was done. I was supposed to pack up and go back. As I said, I just wanted to win. That’s what I came for.”
Obiena was referring to his Thai counterparts, Kasinpob Chomchanad and Patsapong Amsamarng.
The Olympian said that while he was being a good sport while heavy rains wreaked havoc inside the venue, the Thai side’s coaching staff were indecisive when it came to skipping turns or pushing through.
“We didn’t talk about skipping. I get that it’s part of the rules. I’ve been sitting for an hour. I’m cold. I was cold. So I’m like, they wanted me to falter. I get that everybody wants to win, but there’s delicadeza, as long as it’s within the rules, that kind of ticked me off,” Obiena detailed.
“I don’t like this. I was telling Elijah (Cole), the other Filipino vaulter, they don’t do that. I was being very nice. I’ve been helping them out.”
The Olympian also cited that there were discrepancies with how officials carried out the order of turns in the medal round of the event.
“The first part of the match, when it started raining, we were asked by the officials, ‘So, do you want to go or not?’,” Obiena shared.
“And everybody seems to be, let’s go. I made the bar on my second attempt. Second attempt of the other Thai guy was postponed.”
In spite of the circumstances, the event had to be finished; and while Obiena was already exhausted after clearing the 5.40-meter mark in his second try, he felt it was imperative to send a strong statement towards the end of the contest.
“There was not much point for me risking it, but there’s some stuff that had to happen in between the game which made it a little bit more interesting for me,” he said.
“I asked coach, should we do one more? I think I have exactly one more, and I’m done. My legs are gone. Normally, if that thing didn’t happen, I would have stopped at 5.40 meters, because I’ve won at 5.40. Why bother jumping (higher)? But I guess it’s one of those moments where, like what Michael Jordan said, it became personal.”
Obiena would clear 5.65 meters in his final try, winning his third SEA Games pole vault gold in style.
“It worked out my way. I’m pretty happy, at least I know I still have a little bit of (angas) in me, happy and proud of that,” he said.
Obiena took pride in being Filipino, mentioning that his fellow countrymen’s signature resilience was among the factors that kept him going no matter how challenging the situation went that day.
“It’s the Filipino in me. It’s the Filipino in all of us. When the going gets tough, we had to step out and find a way to make it work. I think that’s part of the strong traits we learn as a Filipino, just growing up in the Philippines,” he said.
“I’m really proud of that. Other than that, it’s just stepping up and knowing what I wanted to achieve that day. I really needed to get that gold. It was just that mindset going in. I think that helped me a lot.”