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Obiena remains on track

POLE vaulter EJ Obiena is still favored to win gold in the Asian Athletics Championships. | PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF Julie Fuster

Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association secretary general Edward Kho believes celebrated pole vaulter EJ Obiena is on the right track to winning the 2023 Asian Athletics Championships in Pattaya, Thailand set this month.

The official shrugged off any concerns despite the Paris Olympics-bound Obiena settling for silver in the Meeting International de Sotteville-Les-Rouen in Sotteville-Les-Rouen, France Saturday morning (Manila time).

Obiena took the runner-up spot after clearing 5.72 meters in one attempt as Australia’s Kurtis Marschall bagged gold with a 5.95m jump in the 10-man tournament.

Hometown bet Thiery Baptiste also passed 5.72m but only took bronze after a countback.

Kho said the 27-year-old Obiena still had a good result despite pacing himself for bigger tournaments.

“The reason why he is skipping the lower heights in the tournament is he is preserving his energy. Pole vault is not a walk in the park and it hurts the body, especially in the takeoff,” Kho told Daily Tribune in a phone conversation.

“There’s not much to gain because he has been consistent and has been jumping on an average of 5.80m. It’s a gamble but it’s more about knowing your body and performing on greater heights.”

Kho added that Obiena is still hitting his usual range and that is a good sign.

“It’s not a concern if he got 5.72m because it’s still within the range of what he can do. He’s still on track and there’s not much to be concerned about as everything is pointing in the right direction,” he said.

Obiena became the first Filipino to qualify for next year’s Summer Olympics after clearing the qualifying mark of 5.82m at the Stockholm Diamond League in Sweden last Monday.

Now focused and determined for the 12 to 16 July Asian Championships, Obiena has a handsome chance of defending the gold medal he won in the 2019 edition in Doha after setting the meet record at 5.71m.

Aside from Obiena, the 23-man Philippine delegation will feature track stars Eric Cray, Cristina Knott, John Cabang, Natalie Uy and Janry Ubas in the regional athletics meet.

“Now, we have a basis to be upbeat for the team’s performance in the Asian Championships compared back in 2017 in India. Back then, it was our first time we will be playing with a strong chance,” Kho said.

“We are confident that they will do well.”

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