Obiena set to leave Italy camp

    POC INDUCTION: President Duterte inducts into office the newly-elected officers of the Philippine Olympic Committee on Tuesday at Malacanang. They are Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino, president; first vice president Al Panlilio, board members Dave Carter and Dr. Raul Canlas, auditor Chito Loyzaga and immediate past president Ricky Vargas, among others.

    OLYMPIC-BOUND pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena and Olympic sprint hopeful Kristina Knott are poised to move their training camps in Europe and the US due to the spike of COVID-19 cases in their respective areas, according to athletics chief Philip Ella Juico.

    Juico said that in the case of Obiena “our athlete and his coach Vitaly Petrov are looking for somewhere outside of Italy because of the rise of COVID-19 cases there that is spreading down south of the country.”

    Obiena, the country’s first Olympic qualifier, is currently based at the World Athletics training camp in the seaport city of Formia, 166.7 kilometers southeast of the Italian capital of Rome.

    “Both Petrov and Obiena suggested Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, but I thought it was too far and too expensive. France and Germany were also out of the question,” the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association head said.

    He noted that France also has an upsurge in virus cases while in Germany “they don’t allow you (to) train at their training centers if you are not a German national.”

    Juico said that he was in touch with his Finnish counterpart, Antti Pihlaloski, who might be willing to accommodate both athlete and coach in the meantime since Finland has low COVID-19 cases among the countries in Europe.

    He added that Obiena has resumed training in preparation for the European athletic indoor season starting next month as part of his build-up for the Tokyo Olympic Games in August of next year.

    Juico said Knott is set to move in the next few weeks from her home in Orlando, Florida, one of the COVID-19 hotspots in the US, to Austin, Texas where athletic consultant Rohsaan Griffin is based.

    “Orlando has no athletic tournaments in sprints and it would be better and less expensive for her (Knott) to train near her coach,” Juico stressed of the Fil-Am runner, who won two gold medals in the 30th Southeast Asian Games last year.

    “The Philippine Sports Commission has already approved our proposal and the budget for Knott’s training stint in Texas. They in fact commended me since this would mean less expense for her training,” Juico said.

    Knott is eyeing to qualify for both the 100 and 200-meter events in the Tokyo Olympics, especially after placing a close second in the Drake Blue Oval Showcase in Des Moines, Iowa with a time of 11.27 seconds, erasing the 33-year-old mark of 11.28 set by the legendary Lydia de Vega in the 1987 Jakarta SEA Games.

    Her clocking is tantalizingly close to the Olympic qualifying standard of 11.15 seconds while her winning time of 23.01 seconds in topping the women’s 200-meter race in the last SEA Games is also within striking distance of the qualifying mark of 22.80 seconds.

    De Vega was the last local track and field athlete to compete in both sprint events in the Olympics during the 1988 Seoul Summer Games.

    Juico said that he is confident that Knott would be able to make the grade for Tokyo when the US indoor track and field season begins next month.