Obiena ends respite, battles world’s best in Croatia indoor

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Philippines’ Ernest John Obiena competes in the men’s pole vault final athletics event during the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou in China’s eastern Zhejiang province on September 30, 2023. (Photo by WILLIAM WEST / AFP)

EJ Obiena has made himself scarce lately, preferring to stay out of the limelight before finally engaging in a long-anticipated campaign in the Memorial Josip Gasparac in Osijek, Croatia, on Feb. 20.

“I’m joining the indoor season party next week in Osijek. Better late than never, right?’’ said Obiena, who arrived with his team in the picturesque eastern Croatian city early this week.

The meet serves as a prelude to Obiena’s stint in the World Athletics Indoor Championships on March 1 to March 3 in Glasgow, Scotland, where his fierce competitors headlined by world champion Mondo Duplantis of Sweden will also be seeing action.

From Croatia, Obiena’s next stop is Berlin in Germany on Feb. 23 for the Istaf Indoor, another elite tournament in the World Athletics Indoor Tour that formally ends at the Glasgow global meet.

“I’m trying to be stronger, faster, jump a little bit higher than last year,’’ said Obiena, the current Asian champion and record holder at 6 meters.

The Italy-based Filipino cleared the same height for the second time in his career in the World Athletics Championships in Hungary last year, winding up with a historic silver medal for the country behind Duplantis.

Also expected to show up at the Glasgow worlds are third-ranked Christopher Nilsen of the United States and No. 4 Kurtis Marschall of Australia, the bronze medalist in the world championship.

Obiena’s limited showing in the ongoing indoor season is part of his buildup for the 2024 Paris Olympics in July prepared by his team of celebrated Ukrainian coach Vitaly Petrov and osteopath Niko Viscusi.

While the Tokyo Olympics gold medalist Duplantis remains the heavy favorite in Paris, Obiena is likewise being closely watched as a hands-down threat to the Swede apart from Nilsen and Marschall.

Obiena’s 11th place finish in the Tokyo Olympics was a bad memory as the 28-year-old from Tondo, Manila, made it clear in previous interviews that he won’t settle for anything less than a gold medal in Paris.

After nailing the gold medal in the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, last year, Obiena rested briefly before hitting the workout trail in the approaching winter prior to the Christmas holidays.



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With no Southeast Asian Games, Asian championships and even a world outdoor meet this year, Obiena, the Philippine Sportswriters Association Athlete of the Year, will campaign mostly in Europe on the road to Paris.





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