Obiena ramps up Tokyo Olympics preparations with packed week of tuneups

Manolo Pedralvez

Posted at Jun 27 2021 05:56 AM | Updated as of Jun 27 2021 09:15 AM

Filipino pole-vaulter EJ Obiena has 3 more tune-up meets before heading for the Tokyo Olympic Games in mid-July, capped by one Wanda Diamond League competition in Sweden, according to his Dubai-based American fitness and conditioning coach James Lafferty.

“EJ had two sets of competitions. The first set completed in mid-June we got a feel of where he is. The he comes back to Formia (the World Athletics elite training camp in Formia, Italy) to work on the focus areas,” Lafferty said Saturday.

Since working as a top corporate executive in Manila for several years, the American, a certified athletics coach, has been a benefactor of the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association, the sport’s national governing body, and of Obiena in particular. 

“Now we go out for 3 final competitions to measure his (Obiena’s) progress. He is confident and excited. Tomorrow is his first test,” Lafferty said, referring to the True Athletes Classic on Sunday at Stadion Monfort in Leverkusen, Germany. 

From there, Obiena will proceed to Bydgosszcz, Poland to compete at the Irena Szwewinska Memorial/Bydgosszcz Cup on June 30 at Zdzislaw Krzyszkowiak Stadium.

The event is named after the legendary Polish sprinter Irena Szwewinska, a 5-time Olympic Games veteran and triple Olympic Games medalist who once held world records in the women’s 100, 200 and 400-meter runs.

Both the German and Polish meets should attract strong entries since they are World Athletics Continental Tour bronze events.

Lafferty said that Obiena’s last competition will be the Bauhas-Galan, a Wanda Diamond League event, on July 4 at Stockholm Olympic Stadium in Sweden that will virtually serve as a preview of the Olympic men’s pole vault showdown in Japan.

Obiena will be up against hometown favorite and Swedish-American sensation Armand Duplantis, the men’s world record holder; veteran Frenchman Renauld Lavillenie, the 2012 London Olympic Games gold medalist; and 2019 world champion Sam Kendricks of the US.

Obiena has been peaking steadily, setting a new outdoor record of 5.85 meters in the Jump & Fly meet in Mossingen, Germany in his latest stint. 

That is a shade off his Philippines mark of 5.86 meters indoors in placing second behind Kendricks on the countback at the Orlen Cup in Lodz, Poland last February. 

He began his outdoor campaign by clearing 5.70 meters to rule the Gothenburg Grand Prix in Sweden last June 3, then jumped 5.80 meters in taking the silver at the FBK Games in Hengelo, the Netherlands behind Duplantis, who topped the event with outdoor season best of 6.10 meters, four days later. 

Lafferty said he and his wife Caroline, a certified nutritionist, were accredited by the Tokyo Olympic Committee as part of Obiena’s support team as physiotherapist and medical personnel, respectively.

However, he said that they were willing to yield their spots to accommodate the athlete’s massage therapist and osteopath, who have been successful keeping his back from acting up, since there were limited slots on the national Olympic contingent based on the system set up by the Olympic organizers.

“We can still do our consultations with him online,” he said.

Lafferty said that he has made it his priority to get the new poles to Obiena, who is still awaiting the replacement for the one that cracked during the indoor season early this year.

“We have now ordered another set of poles to be sent directly to Tokyo. One way or the other he (Obiena) will get the new poles,” Lafferty said.

After the Diamond League meet, Lafferty added, Obiena will take a break before flying off around mid-July so that he could attend a pre-Olympic training camp for 10 days in Nagasaki, 1,230.6 kilometers southwest of Tokyo. 

“The preliminaries of the men’s pole vault event are on July 31 while the finals are on Aug. 3,” he said. 


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