27-year-old Filipino Olympic pole vaulter EJ Obiena shares his story of strength and resilience on the road to become Asia’s best — from overcoming stigma in the sport, to balancing his heart and mind as he dreams of bringing the Philippines glory in the sport that he loves.
In the middle of back-to-back schedules during his short break in the Philippines before returning to Italy for another round of intense training, Filipino Olympian EJ Obiena sat down for the last episode of #BetterToday conversations in this year’s Power Move Project, an initiative of PLDT Inc. and Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) to promote mental resilience through sports.
“To maintain a strong mental headspace, I think it’s a matter of knowing how hard I’ve worked and that I’ve done everything in my capacity going to that day – all the training that I did throughout the year, all those days that I threw up on the side of the track. I deserve to be there, I deserve to compete with the best, and to be one of the best in the sport,” the Olympian shared.
His conviction and commitment to the sport have been validated multiple times, with his record-breaking performances in his latest tournaments, beating other veteran pole vaulters.
“There are a lot of challenges in the sport. Being Asian is one thing, because Asians are not known to excel in pole vault. These kinds of stigma did affect me, but I learned to embrace that challenge. I make sure that I win the competition and prove that stereotype is not true,” Obiena shared.
Obiena started in the sport through his father, who brought him to Rizal Memorial Stadium when he was just a kid. Now, with years of experience under his belt, the pole vaulter also said that his approach to the game is simply winning.
“The best EJ as an athlete is going to be the best person that he is. Therefore, before becoming the best athlete, I need to be a better person,” he said. “From getting knocked down to getting back up to knowing the best approach and mindset — there are a lot of things I can improve on.”
As the number 3 pole vaulter in the world, Obiena shared that his biggest dream is to hopefully bring the country glory, especially in the upcoming Paris Olympics in 2024. The young pole vaulter also told the youth to find something that they truly enjoy, but to also endure the hardship that they are bound to face. “Achieving something historic would not come overnight. You need time and a lot of effort. There’s going to be a lot of pain, but stay with it. Focus and keep striving. Next thing you know, you’re closer to your goal than you ever were today.”
Watch EJ Obiena’s episode on #BetterToday Conversations here. The #BetterToday Power Move Project is part of the PLDT group’s broader program to help ensure the digital wellness of Filipinos particularly the youth.