To be on the safe side and not to affect his peaking and performance, Olympics-bound pole-vaulter Ernest John Obiena will defer his vaccination against COVID-19 until after the Tokyo Summer Games next month, according to national athletics chief Philip Ella Juico.
“Like a number of other world-class athletes who have been training hard for the last several years for the Olympics, EJ and his coaching team, with the concurrence of PATAFA, has opted to take their vaccine after the Olympics,” Juico, the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association president, said Saturday.
He revealed Obiena’s decision hours after the pole-vaulter set a new national outdoor record of 5.85 meters in ruling the Jump & Fly meet in Mossingen, Germany early Saturday morning (Manila time) in a timely celebration of the 123rd anniversary of the Philippines.
The International Olympic Committee has strongly advised all Olympic participants to be vaccinated before the Games but has not made it compulsory for athletes to compete in the quadrennial sports showcase.
Finishing a distant second in the competition was Germany’s Oleg Zernikel (5.70) while compatriot Philip Kass was third (5.40).
Obiena surpassed his previous national outdoor mark of 5.81 meters set in the September 2019 in topping the Salto Con L’Asta meet in Italy to exceed the Olympic qualifying standard of 5.80 meters and emerge as the country’s first athlete to qualify for the Tokyo Games.
His outdoor season-best jump in 2021 was also just one centimeter off his national standard of 5.86 meters — booked indoors — in capturing a silver medal at the Orlen Cup last February 12 in Lodz, Poland.
It was also his second win in 3 weeks. Obiena topped the Swedish Grand Prix in Gothenburg, Sweden, with a jump of 5.70 meters before improving with his runner-up finish at the FBK Games in Hengelo, the Netherlands in clearing 5.80 meters last June 6.
Since his return to action, Obiena has shown steady improvement with each meet, gaining a total of 15 centimeters or nearly six inches since his Gothenburg outing.
The Jump & Fly performance was also a sterling display of physical and mental fortitude for the pole-vaulter, who competed with a bum stomach, according to his mother, Jeannette Obiena.
“Two days na daw po siya nag-LBM dahil sa maasim na nakain duon,” the elder Obiena disclosed when she talked to her son moments after the stint, which was broadcast on YouTube.
(He has had diarrhea for the past two days, because of something sour he ate.)
She said that despite feeling drained, the lean and lanky athlete tried his best in clearing 5.90 meters, and nearly made it.
“Muntik-muntikanan na po ma-clear ni EJ yong 5.90 on his last jump pero medyo nanghina na rin,” she pointed out.
(EJ nearly made it at 5.90 meters but he felt weak by then.)
Juico added: “EJ’s confidence with and mastery of a longer and stiffer pole is increasing. He and his coaching team (Serbian coach Vitaly Peterson and father-coach Emerson Obiena) have successfully figured out the corresponding action prior to the actual jump.”
“EJ was in the company of the most outstanding vaulters in Germany.”
Juico added that Obiena was headed back to the World Athletics elite training camp in Formia, Italy, “to rest 2 to 3 days before he takes part in one or two more competitions to end his outdoor pre-Olympic season.”
On the other hand, Jeannette Obiena said her son would likely have just one more competition before focusing his attention on the Tokyo Olympic Games, which open late July.
FROM THE ARCHIVES