Obiena beats reigning Olympic champ for gold as pole vault’s outdoor season begins
Ernest John Obiena began the outdoor athletics season in a manner he wishes to end his participation in the Tokyo Olympics in 50 days—on top of the podium.
The Filipino pole vault ace clinched the gold medal on Thursday in the Folksam Athletics Grand Prix in Gothenburg, Sweden, giving himself a timely confidence boost going into the final stretch of his Olympic buildup.
Obiena cleared 5.70 meters in his first attempt and watched defending Brazilian Olympic gold medalist Thiago Braz fumble thrice at 5.75 meters to secure the win.
“This is a great start to the 2021 outdoor season,’’ Obiena posted on his Facebook.
A great start to the 2021 Outdoor season!#polevault #TheFilipinoEagle #batangmaynila
The Asian athletics champion and record-holder tried his luck at 5.80 meters, but wasn’t able to clear the bar spotlessly in three attempts.
Emerson Obiena, EJ’s father and coach, said he was satisfied with the performance of his son considering that EJ’s last competition was four months ago during the indoor athletics season.
Obiena closed out the indoor season in February with a bronze medal in the Copernicus Cup in Torun, Poland.
The 25-year-old Southeast Asian Games gold medalist has two more top-level outdoor competitions next week in Hengelo, Netherlands, on June 6 and in Mossingen, Germany, on June 11.
Obiena will return to his training camp in Formia, Italy, where Ukranian coach Vitaly Petrov will evaluate his performance and adjust the training program accordingly entering the final stretch of his Olympic preparation.
It was a neck-and-neck encounter between Obiena and Braz throughout with the Filipino clearing 5.60 meters on his second attempt.
Braz, who likewise trains under the tutelage of Petrov and stays at the same camp as Obiena, hurdled 5.65 meters before Obiena gained leverage with his 5.70 leap.
The Inquirer’s 2020 male athlete of the year will see action in three more events in late June before heading to Tokyo for the July 23 to Aug. 8 Summer Games.