The difference between EJ Obiena and Mondo Duplantis
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The difference between EJ Obiena and Mondo Duplantis

By: - Reporter / @junavINQ
/ 05:30 AM March 31, 2024

EJ Obiena Armand Monda DUplants World Athletics Championships

Armand Duplantis of Sweden and EJ Obiena of the Philippines celebrate after competing in men’s pole vault final during day 8 of the 2023 World Athletics Championships on August 26, 2023 in Budapest. Photo: Vegard Grøtt / BILDBYRÅN

It’s no secret that EJ Obiena has one name he should make a target if he wants to strike gold in the Paris Olympics this year: Armand Duplantis.

The Swedish-American pole vault machine is known by his nickname “Mondo.” Quite apt, as it means world in Italian. And the athletics star currently holds the world record for his sport of 6.23 meters.

Obiena, on the other hand, has a personal best of 6 m, the Asian record.

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READ: EJ Obiena sets new Asian indoor pole vault record with gold in Berlin

The .23 meters separating both vaulters is 9.06 inches. That’s a hair-width longer than the diameter of a standard dinner plate, which is approximately 9 inches.

And Obiena doesn’t mind.

“It’s easier to be an underdog. You aren’t expected to do much, but there’s always a fight in you. It’s easier to upset than to be expected,’’ said Obiena.

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The Filipino pole vault celebrity is doing all he can to cover that difference over the next four months to pry the gold medal loose from Duplantis’ grasp in the forthcoming Paris Olympics.

READ: EJ Obiena wins gold in Croatia to begin 2024 season

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Otherwise, his only chance will be if his 24-year-old back-to-back world champion opponent wakes up on the wrong side of the bed on the day of the competition.

Other contenders

EJ Obiena Paris Olympics pole vault philippines

If EJ Obiena can cover 9 inches between now and July, he just might have a shot at Olympic glory. —REUTERS

Duplantis is not the only hurdle to Obiena’s Olympic gold medal dream that the latter should worry about, even if he’s the only vaulter listed higher than the Filipino in the world rankings.

There’s No. 3 Christopher Nilsen of the United States who poses a clear threat to the second-ranked Obiena. World No. 4 Sam Kendricks, also of the United States, and Australia’s Kurtis Marschall (No. 5) are also capable of explosive feats on a good night as well as another American in KC Lightfoot.

Out of the 32 entries in their event at Paris, Piotr Lisek of Poland is a member of the elite 6-meter club along with Obiena, Kendricks, Lightfoot, Nilsen and Duplantis, and should be a threat as well.

READ: EJ Obiena comes up empty-handed at World Indoor Championships

They will see action on Aug. 3 at Stade de France, the largest stadium in France, which has a seating capacity of nearly 81,000.

“Hopefully, by that time, I’ll have a medal around my neck,’’ said Obiena, who missed the final in his first Olympic stint in Tokyo 2020.

Obiena pulled off a giant upset by stunning mighty Duplantis during the Brussels Diamond League late 2022, one of the rare occasions when the Filipino stood taller than the Swede on the medal platform.

Duplantis normally takes the bull by its horns in a much bigger atmosphere, winning the world indoor and outdoor championships twice since capturing the gold in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Obiena placed second to Duplantis in the 2022 World Athletics Championships and failed to reach the medal stand recently at the World Indoor Championships in Scotland.

“I learned to focus on myself a little bit more and I understood what it takes to be on top a little bit better,’’ said Obiena.

“I feel that I’m better mentally and physically since I became older. The test of time has made me stronger,’’ added the 28-year-old son of former pole vault idol Emerson and trackster Jeanette Obiena.

The Asian Games champion has been silently working on mathematically closing that gap from Duplantis with Ukranian coach Vitaly Petrov monitoring his progress in his training ground in Italy.

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It’s not going to be smooth and easy, but Obiena hopes to smash that dinner-plate difference once he gets to Paris.

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