MANILA, Philippines - Filipino pole vaulter EJ Obiena will have financial support all the way to the Tokyo Olympics next year.
This is the assurance made by Philippine athletics chief Philip Ella Juico on Tuesday during his appearance on the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum.
"The budgets are already being prepared," said Juico. "The budget for EJ, from now up to the Olympics, has been approved, thankfully, generously, by the PSC (Philippine Sports Commission). We're happy to announce that."
"His needs will all be met, despite the pandemic," he added.
The 24-year-old Obiena has spent most of the year in Italy, where he continued to train despite the COVID-19 pandemic. He still managed to compete in some tournaments, winning gold at the 59th Ostrava Golden Spike competition in the Czech Republic after a leap of 5.74 meters.
In the Rome leg of the Diamond League, he registered a season-best 5.80 meters to finish in third place behind Ben Broeders of Belgium and Armand Duplantis of Sweden.
"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 last September, when he wrapped up his campaign for 2020.
"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 following year figures to be even tougher for Obiena, as he is set to compete in the Tokyo Olympics. The Summer Games, originally set this year before being rescheduled due to the global health crisis, runs from July 23 to August 8.
According to Juico, Obiena is ready to start his preparations once again for the Olympic Games after a brief break.
"He's about to start his foundation training for indoor. The indoor season will start in February, and then he moves to the outdoor season, which is all the way up to July, to the Olympics," he said.
Obiena is one of four Filipino athletes who have clinched their tickets to next year's Tokyo Games, along with gymnast Carlos Edriel Yulo and boxers Irish Magno and Eumir Felix Marcial.
Mariano "Nonong" Araneta, the chef-de-mission to the Tokyo Olympics, is hopeful that other athlets can gain qualification as well, including boxer Nesthy Petecio, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, and skateboarder Margielyn Didal.