MANILA, Philippines – EJ Obiena received 10 million pesos from his high school alma mater, Chiang Kai Shek College, to support his campaign for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Fresh off a gold medal at the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, the world No. 2 pole vaulter was welcomed by his high school on Friday and received a check for three million pesos from the school, five million from the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc. and a million each from businessmen Anson Tan and Carlos Chan.
Obiena, who is ready for his second Olympic campaign, vows not to waste the support he receives when he leaves the country on October 15 to start his preparations for Paris 2024.
The new Asian Games record holder, who cleared 5.9 meters in Hangzhou, is expected to receive $2 million as mandated by RA 10699 or the National Athletes Benefits and Incentives Act, and another million from the Philippine Olympic Committee.
He will use the money to bring his entire team and have more logistically feasible flights for his poles as he plans four training camps in Europe and the United States.
“We have less than a year to go before Paris and we plan to have four training camps before Paris. The reason for doing that is that there are specific or certain places that are best to go to. That will mainly be Europe. But we would also do a training camp in the US because there is a specific place where… we have certain equipment that we have to use,” Obiena said during his homecoming press conference.
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The 27-year-old Olympian said he has already ordered larger poles as he also wants to avoid his experience from the 2016 qualifying, where some of his poles were damaged.
‘Maybe we don’t have to fly budget airlines this time. So we can fly like normal airlines and have a little more luggage and probably I can travel more with my whole team. So I don’t have to travel alone. Those are the biggest things that would help me move forward,” he said.
‘I make sure that Paris will be flawless. I’m planning on getting bigger sticks, we’ve already ordered bigger sticks before the season ends because we know what we’re going to be working on and we’ll probably jump on these sticks.
Most importantly, Obiena remains grounded amid all the achievements and support he has received from his high school, which also helped him when his funding was cut at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This can all be taken away by one bad day. I’m an athlete, I have to be true to myself. I break a knee, I’m done. It’s a fact of life, so I take this opportunity with great honor and gratitude that I can be in this position like I am now and that I can win the medal. In a split second I could be standing and in another I could be lying on the ground,” Obiena said.
“I was there in 2017. I was in the top 30 in the world, before I know it I’m in a wheelchair and in a month and a half I won’t be able to walk anymore. I know how to be grounded and I know how to understand that all these things I have are temporary.
It was a banner year for Obiena as he claimed the country’s first athletics gold at the Asian Games since the late Lydia de Vega’s conquest of the 100 meters in Seoul. He also managed to climb six meters twice in the Bergen Jump Challenge last June and his silver medal at the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, last August.