By KRISTEL SATUMBAGA
Hard as it is, pole vaulter EJ Obiena is going for the gold medal – nothing less – in the Tokyo Olympics this July.
In an exclusive interview with the Olympic Channel, Obiena vowed to do his best to clinch that elusive first Olympic gold medal for the country.
“Win the gold, that’s it man,” the 25-year-old said to Ken Browne.
“That’s a really hard goal to achieve, but that’s the goal. That’s why I’m doing all of this, not to get second and not to get third… to win it.”
As the country’s first qualifier to the Games, Obiena said he has sacrificed a lot to settle for less. He has been away from his family for a long time to train extensively in Formia, Italy under Ukrainian coach Vitaly Petrov.
Despite the challenges particularly during this time of pandemic, Obiena has shown vast improvements. He has reset his own national record four times in two months from 5.62 meters to 5.86m at the Orlen Cup in Poland last February.
He eyes to reset the Asian record of 5.93m, but admitted that it wasn’t all about the numbers.
“I think the best kind of mindset going into competition is just that I need to be the guy who jumps higher than the rest of the field… I focus on winning the meets,” he said.
That would be a tall order in the Olympics, especially with the presence of Mondo Duplantis.
The young Swedish superstar owns the world record of 6.18m indoors and 6.15m outdoors – which he both set just last year.
Though Obiena considers Duplantis as his chief rival for the gold, he has nice words for him.
“He is a good person, he’s humble and authentic and a great role model for the sport,” Obiena said.
“There’s not a single ounce of like, trying to make you feel tiny. He’s just like, ‘you’re doing good, man, you’re doing good. He gets you inspired and it’s positive.”
Obiena believes anything is possible in the Olympics, and is feeding his hunger for the Olympic gold by improving his performance in every training and competition.
“I’m just working on everything that could boost my chances of getting gold that day,” he said.
“We’ll see what happens on the day itself and going in there, now the more jumps that I take, the more technique that I learn, the more consistent I can be, the higher that I can jump, it just helps everything kind of boost my chances on that day.”