Hopes are high for EJ Obiena’s quest for the top podium finish in the 2023 World Athletic Championships in Hungary.
Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association secretary general Edward Kho has a good feeling about Obiena pulling off a shocker in a stacked field led by pole vault goliaths reigning champion and record-holder Armand Duplantis of Sweden and American Chris Nielsen.
“He’s excited to compete unlike in the Tokyo Olympics where a month or weeks before the competition he was edgy. It’s a good indication,” Kho told Daily Tribune on Friday.
The 27-year-old Obiena is set to arrive in Budapest on 21 August two days before the preliminaries kickoff at the National Athletics Centre.
Obiena, who has already qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympics, seeks to surpass his bronze medal finish in last year’s edition in Eugene Oregon behind Duplantis and Nielsen.
Kho believes the three-time Southeast Asian Games gold medalist and current world No. 3 has the capacity to do so.
“Not to undermine the capacity of Eric (Cray) and Robyn (Brown) but EJ is a medal contender. All eyes will be on him,” the PATAFA official said.
The reigning Asian champion and continental record-holder at six meters, cleared 5.94m in the 2022 Worlds.
With Obiena recently hitting 5.82m in the Monaco Diamond League and cruising within the 5.80m range, Kho is confident in the Filipino bet’s chances.
Obiena is expected to walk through the elimination round and figure in the final on 26 August.
Meanwhile, Cray and Brown are already in Hungary for their respective events in the biggest track and field stage.
Eight-time SEA Games champion Cray plunges into action on Sunday, 20 August, in the men’s 400-meter.
Brown, on the other hand, will try to replicate her golden run in the women’s 400m hurdles in the Asian Athletics Championships last July in Pattaya, Thailand on Monday, 21 August.