Braving the storm

EJ Obiena remains unstoppable as he balances his training and safety amid the threat of the novel coronavirus in his training facility in Formia, Italy.

In an interview, Obiena stressed that he had already adjusted with the way of living in Italy, which is now considered as the new epicenter of the deadly pulmonary disease after having more than 47,000 confirmed cases with a death toll of 4,032.

Obiena, the first Filipino to make it to the Tokyo Olympics, is training at the International Amateur Athletics Federation Pole Vault Training Center in Formia under the guidance of legendary Ukrainian coach Vitaly Petrov with Olympic gold medalist Thiago Braz as training partner.

Formia is just seven hours away from Lombardy, which is said to be the area hardest hit by the virus after having more than 22,000 cases that prompted the national government to lockdown the entire northern Italian region.

Obiena said he refused to get distracted by the situation in Italy as he keeps his focus on getting better to win the country’s first Olympic gold medal.

“To be honest, I’m still okay. Technically, I can still train here. The schedule is just a little bit different from my old schedule,” said Obiena in a phone conversation.

“There’s really no big change in lifestyle because of the virus. Even before, my schedule was to wake up, eat breakfast, train and eat at the training center before coming back home to rest. That has been my way of living here.”

Still, Obiena did not deny that he also fears for his health and safety in a country that is being pummeled by what could be the deadliest pandemic of modern era.

“It’s kind of scary out here and I’m wondering how long would it take before the number of cases drops down with this quarantine,” Obiena said, adding that the number of cases in Italy soars each passing day.

“The thing is, the number of coronavirus cases is getting higher and there’s no sign of slowing down. Italy has been on lockdown for a week now, but it still doesn’t show any sign that the virus would be contained any time soon.”

Obiena admitted that the training center had been locked down and only those who are headed for the Summer Games set from 24 July to 9 August in Tokyo are allowed to train inside.

“Right now, there are only six athletes allowed to train — and they are those who already qualified for the Olympics,” said Obiena, adding that the number of trainees inside the world-famous sweatshop used to range from 30 to 40 before the virus hit Italy.

Despite the situation, where only the equipment, storage room and electricity are available at their disposal, Obiena still has no choice but to keep his composure and assure his family back in Manila that everything is going well as far as his Olympic preparation is concerned.

“At this point, I only deal with people like my coach. I know he’s going to take good care of me. I also deal with other athletes because they also take care of themselves. It’s more of sticking to what you need to do,” Obiena said, stressing that he still considers himself lucky.

“I’m still lucky to be in this situation compared to what is happening in the Philippines. I am lucky because I’m able to train, have food and other essentials.”

“I’m taking it as a blessing. Everything is okay here.”

Date: March 22, 2020 | By: Ian Suyu | Newspaper: Tribune | Source: https://tribune.net.ph/index.php/2020/03/22/braving-the-storm/