Obiena finally strikes gold, thwarts world’s best in Czech Republic
Showcasing his full potential for a medal—the gold, even—in the Tokyo Olympics next year, Filipino pole vault ace Ernest John Obiena on Wednesday beat some of the world’s best in the 59th Ostrava Golden Spike Tournament in Czech Republic.
The reigning Asian champion cleared 5.74 meters in his first attempt, eventually bagging the gold over Renaud Lavillenie of France, who also cleared the same height, because of lesser mistakes in their previous vaults.
“I’m truly grateful for the gold-medal win against the world’s best in pole vault,’’ Obiena said on his first victory out of five tournaments in Europe over the past month.
American Sam Kendricks, the world champion in 2017, got the bronze, while 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics gold medalist Thiago Braz settled for fourth after their identical 5.64-meter efforts were broken.
“Thank you, God for the long-awaited win. Thank you, Philippines. I’m truly proud to represent you,’’ said Obiena, who fell just a tad short of his personal best of 5.81 meters.
“EJ continues to be helped in his quest by colleagues and fellow competitor, Thiago Braz, and his coach, Vitaly Petrov, who does things for EJ without any additional compensation,’’ Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) president Philip Ella Juico said. “He (Petrov) is EJ’s second father.’’
Two days from now, Obiena, whose gold-medal drive to the Tokyo Olympics is supported by his family, the Philippine Sports Commission and Patafa, will be in Poland for the Poznan Poland Competitions on Sept. 11, before proceeding to the Istaf Berlin Continental Tour in Berlin on Sept. 13.
Obiena will then join the prestigious Rome Diamond League on Sept. 17 and Doha Diamond League in Qatar on Sept. 24.
“EJ continues to compete against the world’s best and is on track to surpass his personal best with what EJ’s father-coach Emerson says are ‘just a few adjustments,’’’ Juico said.
According to Emerson Obiena, the Ostrava win has a positive effect on building EJ’s self-confidence in high-level competitions. He’s also satisfied with the consistency of his son’s performance this season.
“He (EJ) was more focused in that meet (Ostrava) despite the erratic wind conditions that bothered most of the world-class pole vaulters that included three world champions,’’ said Emerson, himself a former pole vault great during his prime.