How important is moral support for an athlete? It plays a huge role to one’s success, according to pole vaulter Ernest John “EJ” Obiena, the first Filipino to earn a spot in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
In fact, he remembered seeing a small Philippine flag being waved for him just before he won a gold in the 2019 Summer Universiade in Napoli, Italy, in July.
“I was the only one competing for the Philippines during that time. Of course, other countries have their own people there,” he said.
“I was looking around when I turned my head, there's a Philippine flag there and they were cheering for me. And they gave me like, ‘I need to step up my game. This is for them (Filipinos)."
The morale boost was more than enough for him to clear 5.76 meters on his second attempt, good enough to beat Torben Blech of Germany, who also cleared 5.76 meters but on his third try.
“I just got excited for some reason and it's really important because sports is basically a stage to show what you aim for. If there's people from your nation it's like you're showing your fellow people what you can do,” said the 6-foot-1 son former pole vault great Emerson Obiena.
Last September Obiena became the first Filipino to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics following his performance in another tournament.
Obiena cleared 5.81 meters in Salto Con L'asta in Piazza Chiari 2019, surpassing the the 5.80-meter qualifying standard.
Tips from Caloy
But to win in the Olympics, Obiena said he will still have to make adjustments to his technique. This is why he asked fellow Olympic competitor Carlos Yulo for some tips.
“There's still a lot of mistakes to be honest. For my sport the current weakness would be the second part of my jumping, more of gymnastics. That's what we're talking a while ago with Caloy and I'm actually very excited when we were talking like ‘Hey, give me some pointers here and there,’ ” said Obiena.
“He's a world champion, he knows his stuff and I just want to learn.”
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