Logistical woes force Obiena out of Asian indoor
Ernest John Obiena is bound for Uppsala, Sweden, and will shoot for a victory over current world champion Armand Duplantis right at the latter’s hometown on Thursday to somehow ease the distress of missing the coming Asian Indoor Athletics Championships.
The Filipino pole vault celebrity was forced to skip the Asian indoor meet in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Feb. 10 to 12 due to logistical difficulties concerning his poles, losing the opportunity of shattering his own continental indoor record of 5.93 meters.
“In all likelihood, he won’t be able to join the team [in Kazakhstan],’’ said Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association secretary general Edward Kho. “Sadly, there are no airlines that will allow us to bring the poles because the small aircrafts going to Astana from the transit point cannot accommodate them.’’
Team Philippines will send a 13-athlete delegation to the Asian indoors with Tokyo Olympics sprinter Kristina Marie Knott and vaulters Hokett delos Santos and Natalie Uy likewise passing up on the meet. Both Delos Santos and Uy are nursing knee injuries.
Obiena, the world’s No. 3 vaulter, is coming off a golden performance at the Perche En Or in Roubaix, France, over the weekend after opening his indoor season with a silver finish at the International Springer Meeting exactly a week ago.
Last year, the Italy-based Obiena placed eighth in the Beijer Stavhoppsgala Uppsala, where Duplantis ruled the event by clearing 6.04 meters in front of an adoring hometown crowd.
In the Asian Indoor, Obiena is the heavy favorite on a good day, with only Chinese Yao Jie and Huang Bokai standing in his way.
The 27-year-old from Tondo, Manila, made history in last year’s World Athletics Championships in Oregon, United States, as the first Filipino to climb the podium following a bronze-medal performance where he set the Asian record at 5.94 meters.
A second win?
The accomplishment propelled the Asian record holder to surge up to No. 3 in the world—from sixth overall—behind Duplantis and No. 2 Chris Nilsen of the United States.
But the other high point of Obiena’s season was a triumph over Duplantis for the first time in his career during the Wanda Diamond League in Brussels, Belgium, four months ago, where he cleared 5.91 meters in his third attempt.
That boosted Obiena’s confidence further and it became apparent that he could possibly defeat the best in the Olympics.