EJ Obiena admitted that nerves got in the way during his successful bid to barge into the pole vault finals of the Tokyo Olympics Saturday at the Olympic Track Stadium.
The 25-year-old Tondo native earned a place in the finals after clearing 5.75 meters on his third try and securing a seat inside the Top 12.
Obiena fouled on his first two attempts, including on the second when he failed to make the launch and just crossed under the bar.
But Obiena was quick to regain his composure when it mattered, clearing the bar with more room to spare and then shouting “MIND STRONG!” after his successful attempt.
Obiena said he felt strangely sluggish on the day of the competition.
“When I woke up (this morning), I felt normal and a bit lazy,” he said in Saturday’s interview.
“I felt very nervous even if I’m trying to say that I’m not. As the time passed, I felt more and more nervous.”
Obiena said he didn’t feel like himself during the early parts of the competition, even if he successfully cleared the lower heights at 5.50m and 5.60m on his first attempts.
“I was struggling mentally, then I didn’t feel that confident,” he said.
He managed to get his self-control until the bar moved at 5.75m, even more evident when he cleared it on his last try.
Obiena said he will talk to his coach, Ukrainian Vitaly Petrov, on their strategy for the medal round on Tuesday.
“I know he’s gonna be mad right now for what I did. I didn’t follow some of his calls and was struggling mentally, then I didn’t feel that confident,” he said.
“If I have another chance, then I’m gonna make it.”
Obiena will be up against a tough field composed of world record holder Armand Duplantis, reigning Olympic champion Thiago Braz, 2016 Rio Olympics silver medalist Renaud Lavillenie, and US champion Chris Nilsen, to name a few.
If he is successful, he would be the third Filipino to earn a medal after Simeon Toribio (1932 Los Angeles) and Miguel White (1936 Berlin) won bronzes in the men’s high jump and men’s 400-meter hurdles, respectively.