MANILA - Filipino pole vaulter EJ Obiena is looking forward to what should be an eventful 2021, after he wrapped up a "weird" 2020 season of athletics this past week.
Obiena ended his campaign on a high note, as he placed third in the Rome leg of the Diamond League after leaping a season-best 5.80 meters.
He finished behind silver medalist Ben Broeders of Belgium and Armand Duplantis of Sweden, who set an outdoor world record of 6.15 meters en route to the gold medal.
"We finally come to say goodbye to the weird 2020 season. My 2019 self wouldn't have predicted that 2020 would be so unpredictable," said Obiena, one of four Filipino athletes who have already qualified for next year's Tokyo Olympics.
The year was "a roller-coaster ride since January and still doesn't show signs of slowing down," said Obiena.
After a triumphant performance at the Southeast Asian Games in December 2019, Obiena's plans for 2020 were gutted by the novel coronavirus pandemic. He was stuck in Italy for months at a time due to the lockdown, and his dream of competing in the Olympic Games was put on hold until next year.
It wasn't until August that Obiena began competing again, and despite the long layoff, he produced a series of strong finishes.
At the 59th Ostrava Golden Spike competition in the Czech Republic, Obiena finally reached the top of the podium with a leap of 5.74 meters.
"Thank you so much everyone who have been a part of this weird season. I would like to think we did OK considering everything," said Obiena.
"One one's, two two's and three three's with a total of six out of eight decent finishes," he added. "Let's bounce to 2021 with the lessons of 2020 and keep moving forward."
Obiena expressed his gratitude to his team, particularly to his coach Vitaly Petrov, who continued training him in Formia, Italy throughout the pandemic.
"Patient as a human can be with me especially through those rough months," said Obiena.
He also expressed his thanks to Brazilian pole vaulter Thiago Braz, the currently Olympic champion, who also serves as his training partner.
"What a year this is. This season has been rough and tough to say the least. Thanks for having my back and I forever have yours," he said.
The next year figures to be even busier for Obiena and his team, as he is set to compete in the Tokyo Olympics which has been rescheduled for July 23 to August 8.