Olympic-bound Diaz, Obiena put premium on mental toughness

Pole vaulter EJ Obiena (left) and weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz

With less than 100 days before the Tokyo Games, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz and pole vaulter EJ Obiena are making the most out of their preparations to quench that thirst for the country’s first Olympic gold medal.

Diaz, silver medalist at the 2016 Rio Games, said she is intensifying her training following her stint at the Asian Weightlifting Championships in Uzbekistan where she missed the podium but earned a fourth Olympic berth.

“Intensify everything kasi eto na, papalapit na. Ibubuhos ko na. Lahat naman kami we’re training for the gold medal,” said Diaz, who is back to training in Malaysia.

Obiena, for his part, said he still has six to seven tournaments lined up prior to his Olympic debut. Like Diaz, he and his coaches are also stepping up his training in Italy.

Both Diaz and Obiena are thankful for the support given to their campaign including Summit Drinking Water, who has been a constant backer to Filipino athletes especially those who are gearing up for the Olympics.

Obiena is also most thankful for his Ukrainian coach Vitaly Petrov, who has mentored several great pole vaulters including Olympic and world champions Sergey Bubka and Yelena Isinbayeva.

“I’m basically a rookie at this and having him by my side give me a little bit of an edge: to know what to expect, what should I do, how do I prepare… I think nobody knows better than him,” said Obiena, who currently holds the national pole vault record of 5.81 meters.

While physical conditioning is important, Diaz and Obiena said mental preparation is also crucial in their bid.

“It’s a mind game when it comes to that day,” Obiena said. “It’s a lot of stress, expectations… You need to be able to manage, stay composed and perform your best.”

“The good thing is that I have my coach, psychologist, all the people guiding me, and I trust them that come that day I’ll be prepared for whatever Tokyo has to offer. Whether it be rain, wind, tough competition, bad day… I just need to kind of deal with it and perform at my best.”

It’s going to be a tough field out there for Obiena with the presence of current world record holder Armand Duplantis, reigning Olympic champion Thiago Braz, 2012 London gold medalist Renaud Lavillenie and former world champion Pawel Wojciechowski, but he believes every guy in the field is the guy to beat.

“Everybody who qualified is a competitor and I have respect for all of these guys. I just need to be the one who’s hungriest come that day and perform at best. Just be able to aim for that gold, thirst for that gold. That needs to be my mindset going to that day,” Obiena said.

The same holds true for Diaz, who came close to winning that elusive Olympic gold medal four years ago.

“Napaka-special nito para sakin. Pandemic, andaming nangyari. Daming adjustments. Eto, 30 years old na ako pero nakaka-compete pa rin. Kaya ibibigay ko na lahat,” said Diaz.