Ernest John “EJ” Obiena, who is keeping an eye on how his top two rivals in the world rankings are faring, finished fourth in the 12th Gyulai Istvan Memorial Athletics Championships on a warm Monday afternoon (Tuesday morning, Manila time) at the athletics stadium in Szekesfehervar, Hungary.
The Formia, Italy-based Obiena was among three competitors, who cleared 5.45 meters in the two-day meet, which is a World Athletics Continental Tour Gold Level Tournament.
Obiena, along with world no. 2 Chris Nilsen and Olen Tray Oats, landed far behind Swedish champion Armand Duplantis of Sweden and French vaulters Renaud Lavillenie and Thibaut Collet.
Duplantis, the world’s top pole vaulter, went on to claim his ninth championship this season, after ruling the tournament with a 5.80-meter clearance, with the weather hovering between 23C and 24C.
This allowed Duplantis to once again shatter another meet record, a 5.70-meter performance, which Pawel Wojciewski made back in 2014.
Lavillenie and Collet registered 5.70m and 5.60m, respectively, for the silver and the bronze.
“Yes, competition talaga ito. Iyung mga diskarte, if they pass, jump or clear this height, it plays on how the other guys jump,” said Obiena before he joined the meet.
Obiena, who is now ranked no. 3 in the world, first opted not to go for the heights of 5.15 and 5.3 meters and went for 5.45 meters on his first try to save energy on his next attempts.
He and world no. 2 Nilsen, along with another American Olen Tray Oates, cleared the same height of 5.45 meters, with Nilsen doing it on his second bid.
Meanwhile, Oates also successfully leapt to 5.45 meters, but on his third effort.
After that, the Tokyo Olympics veteran from the Philippines tried to reach 5.60 meters and failed on his first try.
Skipping his second attempt, Obiena sought to try his luck at 5.70 meters, and then bungled his two tries before quitting.
“I’m looking at how they jump. How Nilsen is jumping and if he’s having a good day, or having a bad day. Then, how is Duplantis? And then all these, I leave to my coach (Vitaly Petrov) on how we will take it,” added Obiena days before the meet.