Coach Emerson Obiena marvelled at the various improvements his son EJ showed in the men’s pole vault competition of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The 25-year-old made a good account of himself in his Summer Games debut, overcoming a nervous start by coming through in the clutch to reach the finals. The only Asian athlete in the jumping event eventually finished 11th.
“Lahat, nagtaasan ‘yun,” the proud father told Radyo5’s Power and Play, hosted by former PBA Commissioner Noli Eala Saturday.
“Nakita ko ‘yung kanyang paraan ng pagtakbo. Mas naging reactive ‘yung kanyang paa. And nakita ko ‘yung improvement niya when it comes to speed, and of course y’ung general strength saka specific strength niya,” he added.
And much of the credit behind such, according to the former pole vaulter himself, goes to legendary coach Vitaly Petrov.
“Actually kasi, iba talaga ‘yung ‘pag nabasa mo lang o nakita sa video compared dun sa ikaw mismo ‘yung nakaramdam, pinagawa sa’yo, at inalalayan ka mismo nung author nung method na ‘yun,” he said.
Petrov is known to hone champions, having mentored two-time world champion and 1988 Olympic gold medalist Sergey Bubka, 2008 Olympic champ Yelena Isinbayeva, and 2016 Olympics king Thiago Braz, to name some.
EJ has been working with the multi-titled coach since 2014, but it wasn’t just the University of Santo Tomas product who has learned so much.
The Obiena patriarch admitted that he has been trying to adopt Petrov’s principles through certain materials, with the aim of not just imparting more lessons to his son but for his personal growth as a coach, too.
“Nung nagtuturo ako kay EJ,” he recalled, “it’s more of, like, kung ano ‘yung experience ko. Hindi siya ‘yung direct. Meron pang alam ko mas mabilis na paraan para maturuan ko siya nung time na yun.
“Pero dahil limited ako sa kaalaman nung time na yun, medyo nagtagal. Pero I see to it ang direksyon na gusto kong puntahan ay yung direksyon na papunta dun sa method ni Vitaly Petrov.”
“So I was buying books, I was buying CDs, videos tungkol sa mga atleta at training nila. Medyo nangangapa ako pero dahan-dahan ko nabuo yung training method ko, although it’s not exactly as Vitaly Petrov’s method,” he continued.
But then, nothing compares to learning in person, thus his amazement when he and his son finally got to work with Petrov, who’s now 83.
“‘Yung experience ko nung sumali ako sa Italy, dun ko narealize yung mga, ‘Ah ganun pala,’ ‘Ah ganyan pala,’ ‘Kaya pala.’ ‘Yun. ‘Yung daan ko na liku-liko papunta sa isang direksiyon, naging mas mabilis,” he shared.
Fast forward to now and the younger Obiena already has a stacked collection of awards and accolades, the biggest of which, so far, is a gold medal in the 2019 Asian Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar.
The 30th Southeast Asian Games champion also owns the Philippine record with 5.85 meters, which he set in the Jump and Fly International Athletics meet in Germany last June, a month before the 32nd Olympiad.
At present, Obiena remains at no. 6 in the world rankings, behind Olympic gold medalist — and world record holder (6.18 meters) — Mondo Duplantis, Christopher Nilsen, Sam Kendricks, Renaud Lavillenie, and Piorr Lisek.
It had been quite a busy stretch for the Obienas leading to the Tokyo Games, thus the sigh of relief felt by the 56-year-old. Still, the grind continues.
“Medyo naka-relax na po ng konti, pero ang nakikita ko lang po after this Olympics ay ‘yung susunod po na mga laro niya,” he said.
“Tatapusin po kasi niya yung season niya e, hanggang September meron po siyang laro.”