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Obiena treks road to Paris

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF EJ Obiena/IG EJ Obiena targets back-to-back podium finishes in his European campaign when he vies in the Sparebanken Vest Bergen in Norway.

EJ Obiena takes the first step to the 2024 Paris Olympics when he competes in the Stockholm Diamond League today in Stockholm, Sweden.

With the Olympic qualifying window formally opened, Obiena has to surpass 5.82 meters in the prestigious tournament that starts at 11:27 p.m. (Manila time) if he wants to become the first Filipino to book a ticket to the Summer Games.

But the battle will not be easy as he will slug it out against a powerhouse field featuring reigning Olympic champion and world record holder Armand Duplantis of Sweden, Thiago Braz of Brazil, and Renaud Lavillenie of France.

Also in the start list of this tourney that also serves as a leg of the Wanda Diamond League is Ben Broeders of Belgium, Kurtis Marschall of Australia, and Pal Haugen Lillefosse and Sondre Guttormsen and Norway.

Meanwhile, American pole vaulters Chris Nilsen, Sam Kendricks and KC Lightfoot will skip the competition for the second straight time after missing the 62nd Ostrava Golden Spike in Czech Republic last month, where Obiena placed third after hitting 5.90m.

Should he surpass the qualifying standard, the 27-year-old World Athletics Championships bronze medalist will become the first Filipino to qualify for the Olympics, similar to what happened four years ago when he registered 5.80m to punch a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics.

With the deadline of the qualifying period being on 30 June 2024, Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association secretary general Edward Kho stressed that Obiena shouldn’t be pressured on qualifying early and focus on improving himself.

After all, Obiena can still make it to the Olympics through other competitions like the Asian Athletics Championships from 12 to 16 July in Pattaya, Thailand and the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China this September.

“I think EJ already knows this. Getting pressured by aiming to hit the qualifying mark is not the ideal way to use it as a motivation,” Kho said.

“Rather, it should be like every other competition and another opportunity to qualify rather than thinking ‘I need to make this.’”

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