MANILA, Philippines – To distract himself during his three-week sabbatical from pole vaulting, EJ Obiena decided to turn to another sport to maintain his mindset: tennis.
A self-confessed fan of the sport, Obiena said he will undergo basic drills, something he told reporters he looks forward to.
“Honestly, I’ve been quite obsessed with tennis. I’ve followed it for the past few years. Every competition, every tournament,” Obiena told a small group of reporters at the Aristocrat Restaurant in Malate, Manila, on Monday, September 19.
“I think being on that court, playing, it’s that feeling that I feel whenever I have my last attempt when it’s crucial on pole vault. I feel that thrill. I experience it in that kind of sport. That’s what I hopefully bring back, and train myself to be mentally stronger,” he added.
Being an astute observer, he was of course aware of the exploits compatriot Alex Eala did in the US Open girls juniors tournament, where she won the crown.
He was quick to send felicitations to Eala and her father, after making history at Flushing Meadows, New York.
“She has done something that has never been done. I’m really proud of her. I was like, you know, history is coming. I knew going in that she’s not [losing], she was just aggressive,” recalled Obiena.
Obiena added that Eala’s star was quickly rising among her peers, something that he wants to achieve as well.
“Alex and I, we’re not very close. But since I got into tennis and actually in the training center where I train, there’s a lot of girls. They knew her. And that’s what I want to do in my sport as well,” mentioned Obiena.
“I want to have kids know me, and to not be scared of me but to recognize that there’s a great in another sport we’re not normally known for. There’s like a bunch of 15, 18-year-old 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,'” he continued.
The pole vaulter told the young tennis prodigy to keep making a name for herself – a way to let the world know that the Filipino athlete is not to be messed with.
What lies ahead for EJ?
Obiena will return to Formia, Italy, in a few weeks’ time to start his unimpeded preparations on the road to the 2024 Olympic Games to be held in Paris, France.
During the almost two-year journey, the third-ranked male pole vaulter hopes to become just the 25th man in history to clear the 6-meter mark.
The 27-year-old shared that he was well beyond the 6-meter point, but the clearance was only set at 5.94m, which was enough to set the Asian outdoor record for himself at the World Athletics Championships last July.