Filipino pole vaulter EJ Obiena during the Orlen Copernicus Cup.

Filipino pole vaulter EJ Obiena during the Orlen Copernicus Cup. ORLEN COPERNICUS CUP PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—With things looking up, EJ Obiena has put the tumultuous last several months behind him.

Instead, the world number five pole vaulter is focused on what’s in front of him which is defending his title in the Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, Vietnam just weeks from now.

“I just don’t want to think about those struggles. Those are in the past, had closure that’s already at the back,” Obiena, the country’s flag-bearer in the biennial meet, said during a press conference on Tuesday.

“There’s still a lot up ahead to do. So I’m just focusing on that. Those obstacles, those hardships are what makes it sweeter, those gold medals that we’re gonna bring.”

Obiena, whose months-long rift with the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) stemming from liquidation woes had been resolved a month ago, is a cinch to win a second straight SEA Games gold being the Asian record holder.

The 26-year-old Tokyo Olympian is also fully aware of the immense pressure that comes with being the heavy favorite.

“It’s a shame if I’m raising the flag in the opening ceremony and I lose right?” Obiena said beaming.

“There is indeed pressure and we live for that. That’s a fuel, that’s a driving force each day or the hard training that’s happening and I welcome it.”

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