If life amid pandemic was hard at first, EJ Obiena, Jasmine Alkhaldi have adapted now

Martin Javier

Posted at Jul 24 2020 06:55 PM | Updated as of Jul 25 2020 08:37 AM

Filipino SEA Games medalists EJ Obiena (left) and Jasmine Alkhaldi acknowledged that they have been able to adjust to life in the new normal after struggling at first. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/file

No Olympics in 2020? No problem.

The Tokyo Games may have been moved to 2021, but athletes continue to find ways to compete, even virtually.

Japan-bound pole-vaulter EJ Obiena and two-time Olympic swimmer Jasmine Alkhaldi joined “UpFront” to engage in the so-called Quarantine Olympics.

But before taking on the challenges, both gave updates on what they’ve been up to in these unprecedented times.

SEA Games gold medalist and record-holder EJ Obiena was in the middle of his Olympic training in Formia, Italy when the pandemic struck last March. Italy was the epicenter in the early stages of the health crisis, making a lockdown inevitable for the country.

“As much I wanna say it’s part of life, it wasn’t fully expected. I was just shocked, mostly,” Obiena said.

But despite the difficult conditions, he was able to make it work.

Obiena and his team found ways to continuously train in the middle of everything. But even with this advantage, there’s no room for complacency for the 24-year-old.

“Yeah, I didn’t stop training but I know some people as well who are aiming for the Olympics, didn’t stop training. I wouldn’t say it’s ahead. We just had some obstacles that we need to conquer.” He said.

While stuck at home during quarantine, Obiena also learned a few things to survive. To fully embrace the independent life, he learned how to cook his own meals.

“To be honest, I’m 24 and I haven’t really cooked that much. Usually I eat inside the training center and when it got shutdown, I have no choice but to cook,” he said.

From having close to zero knowledge to making his own pasta dish, Obiena has slowly progressed with his newfound skill.

“Now, I’m a lot better. I’m starting to cook better. So that’s one thing I learned. And I never really liked cleaning before, but if you have nothing else to do it’s very peaceful to actually clean,” he continued.

Now, the most difficult part is over. Italy survived one of the most horrific COVID-19 waves any place in the world. Slowly, the country is opening up and starting to get on track with the new normal.

“We stay safe, we wear a mask and stay away from people. It’s social distancing in some way. Now, it’s starting to get better. The track is still very ghosted but at least we can train. We have access to it now. Life is starting to get back to normal in some way,” Obiena said.

It's a completely different scenario for ace swimmer Alkhaldi, who has been spending this quarantine period in the Philippines.

It’s been especially tough since, according to her, swimmers don’t really have an off season. They just ceaselessly train, awaiting for the next competition to arrive, which is why adjusting was such an agonizing task.

“Honestly, at first, I was so lost. I didn’t know what to do. Siyempre I was used to having a routine so ‘yung first few days ng quarantine parang ang gulo-gulo ng mundo ko kahit na wala akong ginagawa,” she said.

But after some time, she acclimated to her current reality, finding ways to keep in shape and sufficiently train like she’s used to.

“So I established a routine. It’s hard for me kasi mahirap to replace a swimming pool. Sometimes sa shower gumaganun na lang ako (does a swimming technique) para ma-feel ko pa rin ‘yung tubig. But minsan lang ‘yon pag nami-miss ko talaga siya,” Alkhaldi said.

”I think establishing a routine and trying to workout at home everyday, that’s what keeps me busy.”

Both elite athletes were required to do popular online challenges, as seen on “Tiktok” and other social media platforms. They include a sweatpants challenge, hoodie hop challenge, and water cup challenge.

To find out which one conquered the friendly meet and became the first quarantine Olympics champion, watch the video below:

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