EJ Obiena hopes stars align in Budapest for Worlds win

EJ Obiena pole vault

Ernest John Obiena — REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

EJ Obiena is bracing for the forthcoming World Athletic Championships and he has no intentions of ending up second fiddle on a global platform.

He just hopes the winning factors for the quest will go in his favor.

“I’m physically capable of competing out there, but more than half of the game is mental. And there’s a lot of things that’s out of my control that do play a part in my performances,’’ said the world’s third-ranked pole vaulter.

As a clear podium competitor, there’s nothing more comforting than to rock the field by toppling his fiercest rivals—current world champion and record-holder Armand Duplantis of Sweden and American Chris Nielsen—at track and field’s showpiece event.

Obiena will come into the preliminaries on Aug. 23 at the National Athletics Centre in Budapest, Hungary, as the underdog, having lost to Duplantis and Nielsen in the worlds last year in Eugene, Oregon.

But that bronze medal finish put Obiena in a league of his own where no Filipino in athletics has even been.

To upset Duplantis

“A good friend of mine said that when you win, it’s not always because of you, it could have been the rest of the field made mistakes. When you lose, that’s on you. That’s the only thing that’s certain,’’ said Obiena.

“When I lose, that’s on me. I made a mistake, I faltered, I did something wrong. But if I win, there’s a lot of different scenarios that might not necessarily mean I did something to win,’’ added the reigning Asian champion and continental record holder at 6 meters.

The Olympic champion Duplantis owns the world record of 6.22 m and seems unreachable at the top of the world rankings with 1500 points.

Obiena briefly took the No. 2 spot before sliding back to third (1399) after Nilsen, last year’s silver medalist in the worlds, reclaimed his post at second (1401) over a week ago.

After the elimination round a week from now, Obiena is anticipated to figure in the finals on Aug. 26 where other medal contenders such as Americans Sam Kendricks and KC Lightfoot and Australia’s Kurtis Marschall could steal the show.

Three PH aces

Obiena won’t be alone in his medal chase as Filipino-heritage tracksters Eric Cray and Robyn Lauren Brown likewise made it to Budapest.

The former Asian champion Cray will race in the preliminary heats of the men’s 400 m on Aug. 20 where he’s a six-time Southeast Asian Games champion and record-holder.

Brown, who struck gold in the recent Asian championships in Bangkok, Thailand and punched the ticket to Hungary, takes the track in the preliminary heats of the women’s 400-m hurdles on Aug. 21.

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