COVID infection of peers saddens, frightens Obiena

The situation involving American pole vaulter Sam Kendricks, who tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday, has saddened and frightened Filipino bet Ernest John “EJ” Obiena.

The USA’s Sam Kendricks competes in the Men’s Pole Vault final at the 2019 IAAF Athletics World Championships at the Khalifa International stadium in Doha. Kendricks, two-time pole vault champion (2017, 2019), was forced to declare forfeit for the Tokyo Olympics after testing positive for Covid-19, the US Olympic Committee said. AFP
Kendricks, the world no. 2-ranked pole vaulter, is now out contention in the Summer Tokyo  Olympics, and so is Australia’s Kurtis Marschall and Argentina’s German Chiaraviglio.

Because of this, Obiena and his coaches have decided to confine themselves inside their rooms at the CONRAD Tokyo until the qualification round begins this Saturday.

Following close contact with Kendricks, Australian pole vaulters Marschall and Nina Kennedy, plus coach Paul Burgess, have been subjected to stricter protocols and are now quarantined.

“He (Kendricks) is a close friend of EJ. They have been having  interactions during many competitions in the past,” said Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association spokesman Edward Kho, who added that Obiena has avoided training and working at the Olympic Stadium, the main venue of athletics since he arrived in Tokyo.

Obiena’s training sessions have always been done under a training bubble at the Edogawa Stadium in Tokyo.

A final training session involving Obiena ended last Wednesday.

 “This is bad news. You never celebrate somebody else’s misery,” added Kho. “They are in good terms. It saddens him (Obiena), and at the same time, it frightens him. He is not elated about this. This has given Obiena some unnecessary stress.” 

Next to world record-holder Armand Duplantis, Kendricks is another top contender for a podium finish again after bagging the bronze medal during the 2016 Rio Olympics.

 In 2019, Kendricks joined the “Elite 6.0 Club” when he set the American pole vault record at 6.06 meters, a mark which tied him with Steve Hooker for fourth of all time.

Later, Kendricks, won the gold medal at the World Championships in Doha.

The absence of Kendricks will now narrow down the field of pole vaulters who are seeing action.

Aside from Duplantis, Obiena will try to seek a podium finish against the likes of Polish bet Piotr Liosek of Poland and Thiago Braz da Silva, the Rio Olympics’ champion, who is his training partner.

Despite the ongoing situation in athletics, the goal of going higher and beyond the 5.8-meter range is still one of the initial goals of Obiena, following his arrival in Tokyo last week.

“We’re taking a lot of extra precautions now,” Capistrano said. “We’re bringing our own alcohol to Edogawa Stadium, where EJ practices, and we are the ones who wipe down whatever surfaces he will be in contact with. We can never be too careful anymore,” said

PATAFA secretary general Terry Capistrano.

Capistrano has also commissioned a van to bring the team to practice, saying he won’t allow Obiena to ride the athletes’ bus or any of those Olympic-accredited taxis anymore.

The team, which includes sprinter Kristina Knott, had earlier decided to stay at Conrad Hotel instead of transferring to the Athletes’ Village, which may have saved the athletes from potential contamination.

“We’re lucky we decided to stay here,” Capistrano said.

Topics: Ernest John “EJ” Obiena , Sam Kendricks , COVID-19 , Athletics , pole vaulter , Tokyo Olympics
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