MANILA -- Filipino pole vaulter EJ Obiena is solidifying his case as a medal contender in next year's Paris Olympics, according to Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Rep. Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino.
This, after Obiena won silver in the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary on Saturday (early Sunday in Manila) by clearing 6.0-meters. Only world record holder Armand Duplantis (6.10-m) cleared a higher height than the Filipino track star.
"He'll make sure he'll get there," Tolentino said of Obiena's chances to make it to the podium in Paris. "It's not only skills and physicality that's gone elite on EJ, but his focus and mental approach to his sport."
"It's a year to go before Paris, one full year for EJ to get better and better," he added. "He'll have plenty of time to focus on setting the bar higher, and qualifying for Paris won't be one of his challenges anymore, he's in."
Meanwhile, Manila lawmaker and sports advocate Rep. Joel R. Chua also expressed his confidence that Obiena can challenge Duplantis for the gold in Paris.
"Obiena's world championships silver now showed how much he has improved in just one year and is well-positioned to peak by next year at the Paris Olympics, where he is aiming for the gold," Chua said in a statement.
Obiena has made the podium in 19 of the 20 competitions he participated in this year, and won the gold in both the Southeast Asian Games and the Asian Championships.
Next up for Obiena, who placed 11th in his Olympic debut in Tokyo in 2021, is the Asian Games next month in Hangzhou. Tolentino has no doubt that Obiena should rule that competition as well.
The POC chief is now hoping that more Filipino athletes can join Obiena in Paris, with the Asian Games offering berths to the Olympics as well. The qualifying window ends on June 30, 2024.
"We're hopeful for more Filipino athletes to get to Paris via Hangzhou," said Tolentino.