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Pole vaulter nears Olympic dream

EVERY serious athlete dreams of making it to the Olympics. For 19-year-old pole vaulter Ernest Obiena, that Olympic dream can become a reality as early as the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Ever since his early teens Obiena has been regularly resetting the Philippine record in his event. He has improved on that by setting a new Southeast Asia record when he cleared 5.40 meters at the recent 2015 Thailand Open Athletics meet at the Thammasat University in Bangkok.

Ernest Obiena

Obiena says he continues to improve his performance because of preparation and hard work.

“It is both easy and difficult I would say to clear 5.40. It is easy with the proper timing and situations. The way to get to 5.40 is hard though. It involved a lot of sacrifice as well as time and effort. But it was all worth it when I cleared 5.40,” he said.

Obiena, who turns 20 in December, also broke the Philippine record of 5.30 meters which he himself set last May in a meet in Busan, South Korea. With his vault of 5.40 Obiena beat the record of Purranot Purahong of Thailand which was set during the 2015 Southeast Asian Games in Singapore.

At that time, Obiena settled for the silver when he could only clear 5.25 meters.

Obiena says he has improved his technique and training regimen following his two-month stint at the IAAF High Performance Center in Formia, Italy where he came under the tutelage of Vitaliy Petrov, who coached history’s greatest pole vaulter Sergey Bubka.

He learned a lot from his training which is why he continues to improve both in technique and in strength.

“It becomes easier to jump when I get stronger. But it takes extra effort as I gain weight. My jump has to be accompanied with extra effort. I can say that getting heavier is not a problem if I have the right equipment. The only problem is if I get fat and not gain muscle. That would decrease my power to weight ratio,” he said.

Obiena has until July 11, 2016 to clear the qualifying height of 5.70 to earn a slot to the Olympics. He believes he can still make it.

“Yes I can still qualify. I have until July next year to qualify. I can’t really say when is the last chance to qualify until I know the competition dates for next year. But I can qualify to Rio by competing in any IAAF sanctioned meet,” he said.

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