EJ Obiena ended his season with a total of 17 medals—all but five of them gold—and will come out of his Philippine visit to start training for Paris 2024. —AFP FILE PHOTO

EJ Obiena ended his season with a total of 17 medals—all but five of them gold—and will come out of his Philippine visit to start training for Paris 2024. —AFP FILE PHOTO

EJ Obiena hardly looked like a fellow needing a much-needed break on Monday, gamely responding to questions hurled by a few members of the media during brunch.

Donning a crisp white shirt and black chinos that went with a pair of worn-out sneakers, a relaxed Obiena goofed around and shared how he has been spending his visit doing “mundane things.”


But when he was reminded of his professional life, the pole vault ace didn’t take too long to whip up a business-like response.

“You know me,” he said with a smile. “I keep saying that in every competition, I want to win gold. That really is my simple approach, and I think that’s the most straightforward approach in every competition.


“I want to win and to be honest—it’s addicting to win—and I think it’s a good thing that I feel this way,” he went on. “But yeah. That’s what I want to achieve in Paris … to get the gold.”

Obiena has been on a tear lately, turning in one podium finish after another. Of the 17 medals he won this year, 12 were gold. And within a golden streak across three events, one was won at the expense of Swedish star and pal Armand “Mondo” Duplantis, the proverbial bar which the entire field measures itself against.

‘Just another win’

Obiena is glad to have been able to beat the seemingly invincible Olympic champion Duplantis during the Diamond League in Brussels last Sept. 3, but the 26-year-old Filipino star is also not one to make a mountain out of a molehill.

“It’s nice. It’s nice. At the same time, it’s an addition to my career,” he said in the media get-together held at Aristocrat in Malate, Manila, where he was joined by his German girlfriend and national triple jumper Caroline Joyeux, along with his mother Jeanette Uy. “It’s a pride of course, but it’s just another win.

“It’s not because ‘Oh, I beat Mondo.’ Maybe it’s special, but it doesn’t mean that much. Mondo is Mondo. He’s the best, the greatest of all time. [He has] arguably jumped more six meters than any other vaulter.

“But at the same time, he is just human, as he said. And that’s just another competition. I’m just happy that I won my first Diamond League and that makes it sweeter, really, than beating Mondo,” he added.

Obiena knows he has to begin plotting soon as he girds for nonstop training geared toward the Summer Olympic Games in France.


For now, however, he’ll spend the remaining days at home playing tennis—a sport he has recently taken interest in, and one he has become invested in, all thanks to newly-minted US Open princess Alex Eala.

A new hobby

“Honestly, I’ve been quite obsessed with tennis. I’ve followed it over the past years. Every competition, every tournament. I love the mentality that the sport brings, and I think it’s more of mental than it is physical now. And I see it,” Obiena said.

Tennis has afforded Obiena more than a hobby. He said the sport has given him something that he hopes to replicate as he navigates his pole vaulting career.

“There’s like a bunch of 15, 18-year-old and … girls asking me, ‘Do you know Alex?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I know Alex,’ and they’re like ‘Oh wow, she’s amazing, she’s good.’ That’s something that I want to be doing. Hopefully, in some training center, somewhere out there, a Filipino training is approached [and asked], ‘Do you know EJ Obiena?’ ‘Oh he’s good, you know.’ Just putting that Filipino thing.

“[For] Alex, it’s important for her that they know we’re Filipino. And that’s … it’s a different [kind] of achievement. Trust me, it’s a different feeling. Dominating an event that’s not meant for us to dominate?” INQ

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