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Obiena soars to season’s best leap

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Ernest “EJ” Obiena felt he could have done better on the day Armand “Mondo” Duplantis set a new pole vault world record.

EJ Obiena pumps his fist after clearing 5.8 meters.

But clearing 5.80 meters was still good enough for the Tokyo Olympics-bound Obiena in the star-studded Rome leg of the Diamond League 2020 yesterday at the Olympic Stadium in Italy.

The 24-year-old Obiena, who tried to set a new Philippine record, still came up with his best attempt for the season at 5.80 meters to clinch the bronze medal.

Grabbing the gold was Duplantis, who made heads turn when he broke Sergey Bubka’s world outdoor record at 6.15 meters on his second attempt.

Duplantis cleared 5.45m, 5.70m, 5.80m in his first attempts, before needing two tries at 5.85m.

He already shattered Bubka’s meet record by clearing 6.00 meters before he made it at 6.15.

Duplantis was awarded the Memorial Primo Nebiolo award for the best technical performance of the meeting from World Athletics’ President Sebastian Coe. 

Belgian Ben Broeders tied Obiena at the same height and settled for the silver after acing it on his second attempt. 

Former world record holder Renaud Lavillenie finished fourth with 5.70m.

On the other hand, Obiena pumped his right fist in the air after he took three attempts to make a clearance at the height, just a few minutes after his body hit the bar on his second try.

Then, he tried for what would have been a new Philippine record of 5.85 meters, but his foot glanced at the bar on his third effort.

“Natural iyun na i-expect niya iyung higher heights. Pero nasagi at nakanto iyung bar,” said EJ’s dad Emerson after watching his son in action through a livestreamed footage of the event.

Obiena’s feat was close to his national record 5.81 meters, which he recorded in Chiara, Italy in September 2019 in a performance that qualified him to the Olympics.

“I’m almost there,” EJ told his father. 

Since he started competing in the latter part of the year, Obiena has earned a total of one gold, two silvers, and three bronzes.

With Rome completed, Obiena is making bid to join the Doha leg of the Diamond League on Sept. 24.

Philippine Athletic Track and Field Association president Philip Ella Juico said he is impressed at how things went with Obiena, considering that he is competing against the world’s best already.

“Clearly, EJ continues to more than just hold his own against the world’s best. The field in the Diamond League in Rome included Swedish-American Armand Duplantis, world record holder; Belgian Ben Broefers, European champion and Renaud Levillanie from France. The field can’t get any much tougher than that,” said Juico.

The 20-year-old star Duplantis set the fifth world record in the pole vault in the history of the Golden Gala, in Rome. Earlier record-breakers were Thierry Vigneron in 1983 (5.83m) and twice in 1984 (5.91m); Bubka (5.94m) and woman pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva (5.03m) in 2008.


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