Olympian EJ Obiena said he needed to get used to competing without spectators after participating in his first virtual pole vault tournament on Monday.
Performing at his training center in Formia, Italy, Obiena settles for silver behind training partner and reigning Olympic champion Thiago Braz of Brazil in the friendly event called “Who’s The Finest Pole Vaulter?” also featuring two fellow Tokyo Olympic qualifiers.
The 24-year-old PH bet posted 5.60 meters while Braz cleared the height at 5.70m. United States’ Matt Ludwig, who performed at the Spire Institute in Geneva, Ohio, came in third with 5.35m while former world champion Pawel Wojciechowski, who performed in Miedzyzdroje, Poland, came in fourth with 5.20m.
“It’s a different vibe, a different condition. If this is going to be the new norm for a while, then we need to get used to it,” he said.
Obiena said performing without an audience can be a disadvantage for him, adding that the atmosphere helps him in competitions.
“We didn’t feel the crowd. We didn’t hear the claps, the cheers, and the roars of the stadium. Those things actually push me to a have a good vault in a competition, but situations like this, we have to try to work around it.”
Overall, he was thankful to have the opportunity to compete again for the third time this season after the coronavirus pandemic sidelines most tournaments this year.
“What I like about the virtual tournament is that you can host it anytime, anywhere especially in this time of pandemic. It’s just a matter of coordinating the time,” Obiena said.
He added virtual events help athletes like him to stay in shape.
“Competitions help us get better each day, so I’m just thankful to be able to participate here.”
At the moment, Obiena is coordinating with the Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association and the Philippine Sports Commission on which tournaments he could join as some countries are slowly opening to hosting events under strict health protocols.
At the star-studded IAAF World Diamond League event in Monaco last week where he finished bronze, Obiena said they followed strict health measures during the duration of the tournament.
They underwent two swab tests and were required to wear face masks inside the competition area.