EJ Obiena was ecstatic being the first Filipino to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics following his performance in a tournament in Italy.
Obiena cleared 5.81 meters in the men’s pole vault of Salto Con L'asta In Piazza Chiari 2019, surpassing the 5.80-meter qualifying standard.
"It was nice, it was amazing. It's like a dream for me," Obiena told ABS-CBN News.
After all the challenges and hardship that he has been through, Obiena said he is "super" happy that his hard work has paid off.
Obiena suffered an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear in 2017 that left him out of the sport for 6 months.
"It was hard for me. I didn't know if I will be able to come back (from that). It was a wake-up call," Obiena recalled.
But he came back stronger and has been training with Ukrainian coach Vitaly Petrov since 2018. Petrov trained pole-vaulting legend and Olympic champion Sergei Bubka.
Obiena has been on his own in Italy, aiming for the world championships in Qatar on September 28 to October 3 this year.
"They have really good facilities, and my coach (Petrov) is living here. The sad thing living here is (it's) hard because I'm living alone," Obiena said.
Obiena said, however, that he is willing to make the sacrifice to reach his dreams.
Besides the Olympics in Japan, Obiena is also aiming for the Southeast Asian Games, which will start in the country late November.
"It's my dream to compete in my home country. I'm preparing for that," Obiena said.
Obiena is now ranked 10th in the world in pole-vaulting after his 5.81 record. — With a report from Dyan Castillejo, ABS-CBN News
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