Mendoza: Obiena out to soar high

·2 min read

EJ Obiena is showing us the way. The right way, that is.

After failing to win a pole vault medal in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, he didn’t repair to a corner and sulk. He moved on.

We all saw what happened to Obiena in Tokyo. A gallant warrior rising from the ruins of defeat.

While about to perform another attempt, he aborted.

Citing the jury’s glaring fault at a destructive lapse, Obiena, 25, got himself embroiled in an argument. Although the chief official bought his point, Obiena was never the same again.

Mentally exhausted and psychologically drained arguing his stand, he was damaged goods when action resumed. Naturally, he faltered. He placed 11th out of 12 starters.

“Although I lost, I still won,” he said, head unbowed. “When you are in the right, fight for it.”

So, instead of coming home to lick his wounds, Obiena flew back to Formia, his training camp in Italy.

He resolved to continue competing in Europe. The Paris 2024 Olympics is just barely three years away.

Maybe, Obiena knew of the following anecdote?

“I need failures,” said one super successful athlete whose name escapes me. “They are my secrets to success.”

And so, in one tournament last weekend—in Paris, mind you—Obiena placed an amazing second in the International Association of Athletics Federations Diamond League.

Amazing because his 5.91 meters erased his own Philippine mark of 5.55m he set in the 2016 Singapore Open. Amazing because his 5.91 meters surpassed his 5.71m he set in the 2019 Asian Athletics meet in Doha, Qatar, for gold. Amazing because his 5.91 meters eclipsed his personal best of 5.85m.

And, yes, amazing because his 5.91 meters put him second behind Sweden’s sensational Mondo Duplantis, the reigning Olympic champion, who ruled the Paris event with his 6.01m.

Obiena’s success-laden work ethic reminds me of a Japanese swimmer who won gold in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Asked what he will do after the Games, the swim champion said: “I will resume training.”

With his silver in Paris, I won’t be surprised if Obiena wouldn’t be as euphoric as when David slew Goliath. To him, a much bigger goal is yet to be achieved—an Olympic podium finish. It won’t be long?

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