FILIPINO John Ernest Obiena (pic) had had high hopes for the 2017 KL SEA Games and was training even a day before he was to leave for Kuala Lumpur – but fate dealt him a painful blow.
The pole vaulter landed badly in training, tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and had to watch the Games from a hospital bed.
But he is back with a vengeance. Not only has Obiena recovered, he has qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics after setting a new national record of 5.76m at the World University Games in Naples, Italy in July.
The 24-year-old he believes he has only gotten stronger after that horrific accident that nearly saw him quitting the sport.
“I landed awkwardly and injured my knee. For it to happen the day before my flight to KL is a pain you won’t easily forget, ” said Obiena, who was the silver medalist in Singapore in 2015.
“It was very hard because I was preparing and looking forward to doing well and then it happened. It was devastating and I just wanted to give up.”
“But my family and those around me didn’t give up on me and they kept on pushing and encouraging me. That was how I kept moving forward.”
“Now, two years later, I am back at the SEA Games at home and it’s a moment I am going to savour. Hopefully, I can execute what I’ve been training for and show what I can do.”
Obiena said his father was also a pole vaulter and that the fascination he had when he first saw his father in action was another factor that made him press on in the sport.
“When I was a six-year-old kid and I saw him make the leap for the first time, I was awestruck to see someone flinging themselves like that six feet over the bar.”
“For me to be able to do that, it is still fun now.
Though Obiena looks to be a shoo-in for the gold medal in the event at the New Clark City Athletics Stadium today, he is not taking it for granted.
“I definitely want to win my first gold medal but I consider everyone who has worked hard to get here as tough competition. I will not take them lightly.”
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