After being denied gold numerous times this season, EJ Obiena finally rose to the top.
The 24-year-old pole vaulter registered a new season-best of 5.74 meters, finally winning his first gold since the 2019 Southeast Asian Games. He achieved the feat at the Ostrava Golden Spike tournament at the Czech Republic, Wednesday morning here in the Philippines.
The Olympics-bound Obiena easily cleared 5.34 and 5.54 meters, but struggled a bit before taking down 5.64 on the second attempt. That was 0.6 meters off his erstwhile-personal best of 5.70, set at the Monaco Diamond League early last month.
The Asian champion, plus reigning Olympic champion Thiago Braz of Brazil and France’s Renaud Lavillenie took their turns at 5.84 to contend for the title. This height could have broken not only his year’s best but also his own standing Philippine mark of 5.81 set at last year’s SEA Games.
Obiena almost cleared the bar, but hit it on his way down in his second attempt at the said height. He eventually missed on his third and final try.
Only the Frenchman and the Filipino were left after previously clearing 5.74, as all the other competitors including the Rio 2016 champion had to settle with their marks.
Eventually, USA’s Sam Kendricks edged out Braz for the bronze after taking 5.64 with lesser attempts.
In the end, as Obiena and Lavillenie both tackled 5.74 on two attempts, but the Filipino’s lesser attempts at 5.64 brought him the gold and his first title of the year.