Tokyo Olympics’ finalist Ernest John Obiena is now finding the confidence to go higher.
With a big crowd 14,000 spectators firing up a star-studded field, the 25-year-old Obiena did just that in a reunion of sorts in the IAAF Diamond League athletics meet at the Charléty stadium in Paris with the world-class field he competed against in the Tokyo Olympics.
Obiena did something he has never done before as he sailed past the bar at 5.91 meters on his first attempt to eventually snare the silver medal.
He even went toe-to-toe with world record holder, Sweden’s Armand Duplantis, who eventually took the gold medal. But the Filipino was able to beat Tokyo Olympics’ silver medallist and Lausanne leg winner, American Chris Nilsen, who settled for third place at 5.81 meters.
“He was just able to do the necessary adjustments during his attempts at the previous heights before 5.91m,” said Obiena’s dad Emerson, adding EJ was struggling to clear this range in the past months while he was preparing for the Tokyo Games.
“That 5.90 + m clearance potential was there already during the early outdoor season competition. Now, it’s official,” said Emerson.
Obiena eclipsed his previous national record of 5.87 meters he established in July at the World Athletics Continental Tour in Poland. He was comfortable clearing the 5.7 to 5.8 range early this year, but was having trouble going higher, including at the Tokyo games.
His Paris campaign, however, showed that Obiena is back.
“Thank you to those who keep on supporting and believing, despite the ups and downs. Getting there,” said Obiena in a Facebook message to his well-wishers.
Obiena tried to reach the height of 5.96 meters. But he decided to pass up after making two tries.
This left Duplantis in a lone quest for the gold, which he eventually did with a leap of 5.96 meters and a last one at 6.01 meters.
Duplantis’ performance was one meter below his gold medal performance in Tokyo.
The Swede, who was six centimeters short of the course record he set last year, then tried to go for a world record again, but failed to clear 6.19 meters thrice.
Philippine Athletics Track and Field president Philip Ella Juico commended Obiena for his great feat and in standing his ground with the elite athletes in pole vault.
“We are extremely happy with EJ Obiena’s latest record-breaking performance achieved in Paris. This new Philippine record achieved our goal for our athletes of constantly striving to improve,” said Juico.
American Sam Kendricks, who missed action in the Tokyo Olympics when he was infected with COVID-19, was back and took fourth at 5.73 meters.