For Tokyo Olympics-bound athletes pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena, gymnast Carlos Yulo, and boxers Eumir Marcial and Irish Magno, training and competing has never stopped for them even when the world is on its knees coping with a pandemic.
Wherever they in the world, they have continuously stayed fit and in shape for the Tokyo games, believing that they cannot be stopped from training for thire Olympic dreams, not even by the scourge of COVID-19.
Ernest John Obiena
Since the lockdowns began last year, the 25-year-old Obiena remained in Formia, Italy, training with Rio Olympics gold medallist Thiago Braz and their coach Vitaly Petrov.
While following health and safety protocols imposed by authorities in Europe, Obiena has managed to compete in numerous pole vault events, whether they are in an indoor setting or in an outdoor setup.
Because of this, Obiena has broken the national record many times.
During the indoor season, Obiena ended his one-month stint by trying to reach the height of 5.87 meters.
If he did, Obiena would have gone one millimeter higher than his gold medal-winning effort of 5.86 two weeks go.
Obiena eventually settled for the bronze medal in another showdown with world champion Sam Kendricks of the United States and seasoned veteran Piotr Lisek of Poland in the men’s pole vault event of the Copernicus Cup 2021 indoor athletics meet in Torun Poland.
Obiena cleared the same height of 5.80 meters with Kendricks and Lisek, making a clean attempt on his third try and this put him in third place.
Kendricks, the 2016 Olympic bronze medallist, collected the gold medal after clearing the elevation in one try.
Lisek, with podium finishes in the 2015, 2017 and 2019 World Championships, also cleared 5.8 meters, just like Obiena. But since Lisek took the 5.72-meter height in just one go, the Pole earned the silver on the countback.
This year, the 6’2” Obiena will continue maintaining his form, now that the indoor season is over, and that outdoor meets in Europe will begin in the next two months.
Obiena’s conditioning coach James Lafferty said he is now getting into the groove at the 5.8-meter level.
“He is coming along nicely, 5.80 is becoming a regular. With now 6 months more of training he is in a great position for Tokyo,” said Lafferty.
Two Saturdays ago, Obiena used a new pole when he broke the national record for the second time in a week, clearing a height of 5.86 meters to earn the silver medal during the Orlen Cup 2021 Indoor Athletics meeting.
Obiena’s performance is regarded as the best that was done by an Asian athlete since 2005 in the trackfest’s 88-year history when action ended at the Atlas Arena in ÅódÅº, Poland.
This was 6 milimeters higher when Obiena smashed his own national record in the ISTAF Indoor Athletics Meet in Berlin, Germany, where he cleared a height of 5.80-meters.
Last December 16, Eumir Marcial won his first professional boxing match after pulling off a unanimous decision victory over American boxer Andrew Whitfield.
All three judges, Don De Verges, Ron Scott Stevens and Damian Walton scored the bout, 40-36, for Marcial when action ended at the Shrine Exposition Center in Los Angeles.
“Matagal ako walang training dahil sa pandemic kaya struggle din ako na makuha ‘yung tamang kondisyon,” said Marcial, who has been training with legendary trainer Freddie Roach since his arrival in the United States last October.
He left the country to train in the US for his first professional fight and the Olympics.
Marcial, who signed up with Manny Pacquiao’s promotional outfit, used to stay in shape while inside his home in Imus, Cavite during the lockdowns meant to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Since qualifying for the Olympics in early 2020, Marcial has been receiving major offers from professional boxing promoters and this became a catalyst for him to turn pro.
At first, training at home and in her hometown in Janiuay, Iloilo was good enough for Irish Magno.
In January, the 28-year-old Magno has since left home and gone inside a training “bubble” at the Inspire Academy in Calamba.
Magno has been at academy since the second week of the month with the rest of her teammates at the national team. She is waiting for word when she can go back to Manila to resume regular training.
“Tuluy-tuloy pa naman ang training ko. Sana payagan na akong makabalik sa Manila,” said Magno, who was able to return to Iloilo last Aug. 3, 2020 after coming down from Baguio City, with a 13-member national squad from the national training camp.
Since then, Magno has been undergoing supervised, online workouts with the coaches of the Alliance of Boxing Association of the Philippines.
Last March, Magno became the fourth Filipino qualifier to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
She was no longer in contention after her fight in the Round of 16 in the women’s flyweight box-off yesterday in the 2020 Asia/Oceania boxing qualifying tournament in Amman, Jordan. But she still turned back Tajikistan’s Sumaiya Qosimova via unanimous decision, 4-1, in the the box-offs.
Since August, gymnast Carlos Yulo has found a chance be able to continue training five times a week.
This was made possible after Gymnastics Association of the Philippines president Cynthia Carrion was able to secure more help and financial assistance for the 20-year-old Yulo.
The release of P2 million from the Philippine Sports Commission has helped Yulo to keep on availing of two training halls in Tokyo for his workouts.
Carrion said one training hall is available for Caloy for three times a week, while the other one can be used two times a week because of coronavirus restrictions in Japan.
Since gymnastics officials in the Philippines have made arrangements with their Japanese counterparts in Japan, Yulo is able to go into training for up to five times a week.
The assistance was part of a request of P4.2 million allocated to the GAP.
Earlier, the Manny V. Pangilinan Sports Foundation has also reached out to Yulo with an additional funding of P800,000.
The amount was meant to help Yulo for his studies.
Because he is in good shape after a five-month layoff, Yulo earned a share of the bronze medal in the vault exercises to finish 12th overall in the 53rd All-Japan Seniors Gymnastics Championships.
Yulo tallied a total of 83.398 points after completing six events, sharing the third position in vault with 11-time world champion, Kenzo Shirai.
Competitions were finally held after six months of postponement in Takasaki, Japan, and with almost all of the country’s top gymnasts joining in.
As Shirai’s performance was considered subpar after he eventually placed 24th overall, Yulo tried to impress when he improved his routine with a double twisting double layout.
It was Yulo’s coach Munehiro Kugimiya who introduced and instructed him to do a double twisting, double layout during the meet.
Keisuke Asato, who eventually took 72nd place overall, claimed a share of the gold in the vault with Wataru Kanigawa after both tallied 14.9 points.
Overall, Kazuma Kaya ruled the men’s division after displaying an excellent form and consistency on all six events, snaring the title with an impressive 86.998.
Wataru Tanigawa placed second with 85.965 and Kenta Chiba took third with 85.166.