Ernest John Obiena felt a little rusty. But he still earned the silver medal in the 13th Triveneto International Meeting last Saturday at the Stadio Giuseppe Grezar in Trieste, Italy.
The 24-year-old Obiena, who is waiting for his chance to join the Diamond League, placed second behind training partner and current Olympic gold medallist Thiago Braz da Silva.
Obiena cleared 5.45 meters on his second attempt, with his effort just below the 5.50-meter mark he made during the 2017 Asian Championships in India.
“It was an okay start, but, (I) clearly have a lot to work (to do). I was very rusty,” said Obiena in an online statement to the Manila Standard.
Obiena's effort was actually below his target height of 5.5 meters.
“This is EJ's first competition after the lockdown. Although he placed second, the 5.45 meter vault was below their target, which was 5.5 meters and up,” said EJ's father Emerson, who talked to his son after the competition.
Da Silva, who took hold the Olympic record of 6.03 metres back in 2016, had a 5.5-meter performance for the gold. He missed attempts at 5.65 meters and 5.7 meters.
The elder Obiena said EJ and the coaching staff had to undergo a lot of procedures since many safety protocols had to be undertaken.
“There have been new protocols and there is a need for adjustments to be done in line with the new normal,” added EJ's dad.
Italian bet Max Mandusic settled for the bronze with a clearance of 5.35 meters, with Slovenian Robert Renner in fourth (5.25 meters).
It was Obiena's first outdoor event for 2020 ever since lockdowns were imposed throughout Italy to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
While waiting for his chance to join the Diamond League, Obiena is set compete online.
Obiena, who currently training in Formia, Italy, will go up against other 2021 Tokyo Olympians in a virtual contest this August.
“I would like to join all the Diamond League meets as all the top guys are on the circuit,” said Obiena.
The Filipino pole vaulter a will see action next to Tokyo Olympics qualifiers from Poland and the United States during the virtual meet.
Now ranked no. 16 in the World Athletics Rankings, Obiena will fight for glory against world no. 8 Paweł Wojciechowski of Poland and no. 29 Matt Ludwig of the United States.
Wojciechowski cleared 5.85 m to win bronze at the World Championships in 2015.
In 2017, he improved his personal best to 5.93 m.
On the other hand, Ludwig registered a 5.85 meters in the 2020 US National Championships last February.
Obiena secured a seat in the 2020 Summer Olympics by surpassing the qualifying standard of 5.8 meters by making a 5.81 leap in a tournament in Chiara, Italy on September 3, 2019.
His effort was also a national record.
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