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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Obiena secures gold in LA; Hoffman rises in rankings

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Hard work continues to pay off for both Filipino pole vaulter EJ Obiena and Fil-American hopeful Lauren Hoffman, who jumped up in the Olympic qualification ranking and broke the Philippine record for a third time this year.

After spending six weeks in a training camp, Obiena celebrated his first gold medal on American soil, while Hoffman’s chances of making it to the Paris Olympics have improved.

The 28-year-old Obiena was swarmed by happy Filipino fans, minutes after he cleared 5.8 meters on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) on his second attempt in the men’s pole vault action of the 2024 USATF Los Angeles Grand Prix Athletics at the University of California-Los Angeles’ Drake Stadium.

Hoffman, who saw her Olympic Qualification ranking jump dramatically from 31 to 30, and now to no. 28, finished fifth in record-breaking fashion again at 55.84 seconds in a star-studded field in the women’s 400-meter hurdles.

The sunny weather gave Obiena a refreshed feeling, as he was ahead of Norwegian Simon Gutterman and American rival KC Lightfoot.

“It was good. It’s my first time on American soil. I did something unexpected while I’m feeling under the weather,” said Obiena, in an online statement after spending six weeks in a training camp in Chula Vista.

Obiena’s preparations in Chula Vista was made possible with the assistance of Bo Navarro’s FilAm Sports Group and a training partner in Fil-Am pole vaulter Elijah Cole, before he competed in the 2024 ICTSi-Philippine Athletics Championships.

Barcelona Olympic veteran Ed Lasquete was also around to lend a hand to Obiena during his preparations.

“I wanted to win that one,” added Obiena, who is in the thick of preparations for the Paris Olympics and is ranked no. 2 in the world.

Gutterman and Lightfoot shared the silver medal after both tied for second place in 5.8 meters.

Chris Nilsen, who will compete for medals with Obiena and Lightfoot in Paris, was fourth at 5.60 meters.

Meanwhile, Hoffman’s race was no ordinary one, with Anna Cockrell, who is at no. 6 in the Olympic qualification rankings, taking the gold in 53.75 seconds, a new season’s best for her.

No. 5-ranked Andrenette Knight settled for the silver in 54.69 seconds and no. 5 Cassandra Tate claimed the bronze in 55.02 seconds.

“For EJ and I to be the only Philippine athletes here, it’s really special and I hope more Philippine athletes get to qualify for higher level events as everybody did really well at the Philippine national champions recently with a lot of good performances,” said Hoffman.

It was Hoffman’s third time to smash the 400-meter hurdles’ mark, which once belonged to Robyn Brown in the 2022 Southeast Asian Games in 56.44 seconds for the bronze medal.

Hoffman first went below Brown’s time in the Hurricane Collegiate Invitationals at 56.39 seconds on March 23 and then lowered it at 55.72 seconds at the Drake Relays on April 27.

During the ICTSI-Philippine Athletics Championships, the national mark went down further at 55.92 seconds.

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