World’s no. 3 pole vaulter EJ Obiena wanted to finish his degree in the University of Santo Tomas amid his success in international sports competition.
Obiena, is a fourth year Electronics Engineering student of the UST Faculty of Engineering, who is currently on leave to concentrate on his training abroad. He has played track and field for UST in the University Athletics Association of the Philippines (UAAP) and UniGames.
“I would hope to get my diploma here and cross that historical place that I didn’t cross today because I want to graduate,” Obiena said after receiving the Pope John Paul II award from UST.
He was referring to the Arch of the Centuries, where there is a superstition that once you enter the arch, you are not allowed to exit before you graduate, or you will be debarred.
“I would want to finish that (degree). I don’t know when. I don’t know how long it will take me. It is my passion outside the sports,” Obiena said.
In 2018, he went on leave to concentrate on his training abroad.
Leaving the university to pursue sports was a tough negotiation with his professor before, Obiena said.
He revealed that he was discouraged before by his professor Angelo dela Cruz to leave the university, especially since he had just had an ACL injury at that time.
Despite this, he was assured by his professor, now the dean of the UST Faculty of Engineering, that they would be there for Obiena should he return to school.
It was likewise a hard decision for EJ’s parents to allow their children to pursue sports and leave their studies in the meantime, but they said EJ had to take advantage of his youth.
“Pagdating sa sport, mga kakailanganin mo para mag-excel ka dyan unang-una yung youth mo. So mga characteristics na kailangan mo, yung ability mo, habang bata ka pa, yun yung advantage mo kapag sa sports,” said EJ’s father, Emerson.
“Makakapagintay ang pagaaral pero ‘wag lang pababayaan. Yung kabataan hindi yan permanent so habang nandyan yan, palo lang ng palo at the same time ‘wag lang kalimutan yung pagtatapos ng pagaaral,” EJ’s father added.
Emerson is a silver medalist in the 1995 Southeast Asian Games and a bronze medalist in the 2005 Manila Games.
Asked about how he balanced his life as a student-athlete, EJ said he is not the best person to talk about it.
Obiena still underscored the importance of time management and the sacrifices that come along with when juggling your responsibilities as an athlete and student at the same time.
“Being a student-athlete is difficult. Trust me, if it’s not as difficult it might be a little more difficult than being a professional athlete because you’re trying to handle two lives and doing it at the same time is quite stressful,” said EJ.
“And just that sheer determination to get that done, it’s a big help for me to keep going forward and keep doing what I do through tough times and just buckle down and enjoy.” he added.
In 2022, the 6’2″ athlete has had an impressive streak, having won 17 medals, with 12 of them gold.
Some of EJ’s recent accomplishments are the following:
- Gold – 26th Internationales Stabhochsprung-Meeting (August 23)
- Bronze – Athletissima (August 25)
- Gold – True Athletes Classics (August 28)
- Gold – St. Wendell City Jump (August 31)
- Gold – Memorial Van dAMME (September 2)
- Silver – ISTAF Athletics Meet (September 2)
- Gold – Golden Fly Series (September 11)
- Gold – Gala Dei Castelli (September 12)
In the Memorial Van Damme competition, the 26-year old athlete also bested the no.1-ranked pole vaulter Armand Duplantis.
After spending a few days in the Philippines, Obiena will return to Italy to prepare for several international competitions.