Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz offered words of encouragement to fellow Olympian and pole vaulter Ernest John “EJ” Obiena, saying he must continue jumping for Philippines despite the everyday challenges they encounter.
“Don’t give up whatever they say to you, you can do it. You have to keep going to overcome the challenges,” the weightlifter Diaz told the 26-year-old Obiena during their online appearance at Level Up’s Radyo Katipunan show last week.
“There are times that you want to give up, especially that you’re injured. But you have to think of the people around you, those who believe in you and don’t give up on you. I really understand you, the trials you’ve been with. It’s very difficult to be a national athlete, but always remember you’re doing it for our country – the Philippines.”
The 30-year-old Diaz encouraged Obiena to work hard and train smart after his recovery to defend his title in the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, Vietnam on May 12 to 23, as well as the Asian Games in September in Hangzhou, China.
“Always believe that you can do it because you know and I know with no doubt that you can do it,” Diaz added, noting that Obiena, an Asian record holder, must defend the pole vault gold he won two years ago in New Clark City during the country’s hosting of SEA Games.
For his part, Obiena reciprocated the support.
“I want to see Ate Hidi defend and win her SEA Games, Asian Games and World Championships and then win a second gold in Paris 2024,” Obiena said. “She’s a beacon for us athletes, a role model to all of us Filipinos and her achievements and journey make everyone do better and push for greater heights.”
Obiena is still in Uhingen, Baden Wurttemberg, Germany for his continuous rehabilitation after a minor surgery last week to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee.
He is set to compete in the Init Indoor Meeting in Karlsruhe, Germany on January 28 after a six-day rest.
“Ate Hidi is our best example of what a Filipino athlete should be. Her journey defines what being a Filipino athlete needs to go through, yet still shines in the world stage. She showed the world that we Filipinos are one of the best if not the best. She inspires the nation to be better and to keep striving for greatness. She inspires the whole country,” Obiena said.
Diaz is recovering from a Covid-19 infection last week.
Obiena and his mother federation the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association are currently not seeing eye to eye due to liquidation issues.
The Philippine Sports Commission under Chairman William Ramirez has already offered to help mediate between the two parties.