Ernest John Obiena used a new pole when he broke the national record again, clearing a height of 5.86 meters to earn the silver medal during the Orlen Cup 2021 Indoor Athletics meeting on Friday (Saturday morning in Manila) when action ended at the Atlas Arena in Łódź, Poland.
Obiena’s performance is regarded as the best ever by an Asian athlete since 2005 in the trackfest’s 88-year history.
The feat was 6 millimeters higher than his leap last week when he smashed his own national record in the ISTAF Indoor Athletics Meet in Berlin, Germany, where he cleared a height of 5.80-meters.
Since Obiena needed three attempts, American pole vaulter Sam Kendricks grabbed the gold medal after reaching the same elevation in just one try.
Kendricks then went for a higher attempt after Obiena faltered thrice at 5.91 meters.
With Obiena clapping and encouraging him, the 2016 Olympics bronze medalist and the 2017 World Champion tried the 5.96-meter mark, but Kendricks’ feet kept touching the bar while on his way down.
The 25-year-old Obiena, with coach Vitaly Petrov guiding him, later told his father Emerson by phone that he has finally gained his touch after getting hold of a stiffer fiberglass pole, which he tried during the Lieven meet last Sunday.
"Nahawakan na niya iyung matigas na next progression niya. Nakita na niya ang timing niya. Kaya maganda ang resulta,” said the elder Emerson.
Obiena’s training partner, Rio Olympics gold medallist Thiago Braz, settled for the bronze with a clearance of 5.80 on his third attempt.
Matwiej Wołkow also shared the limelight with Kendricks, Obiena, and Braz when the 16-year-old bet from Belarus jumped 5.60 meters and shattered the world indoor under-18 mark.
Obiena tried using his new pole while in the Lieven meet, but was still adjusting to its feel and just finished fifth.
"Okay na. Itutuloy ko na ito. Hindi na ako babalik sa lupa,” said Obiena on his last attempt when he spoke to his father.
Obiena’s adviser James Lafferty said Obiena's efforts at 5.86 was very clean.
“His third attempt at 5.86 was a near-perfect vault. He cleared it by a huge margin. Had the bar been at 6 meters he would have cleared it. That vault was an Olympic gold medal vault,” gushed Lafferty.
This will be Obiena’s third gold medal win in two weekends.
Obiena topped the PSD Bank Indoor Meeting pole vault event in Dortmund, Germany on Sunday, and made the winning mark of 5.68 meters, surpassing home bets Oleg Zernikel and Torben Blech, who both ended the meet with a 5.65-meter clearance.
Last Friday, Obiena smashed his own national record in the ISTAF Indoor Athletics Meet in Berlin, Germany, where he leapt to a height of 5.80 meters.
“It’s such a great confidence-boosting and momentum generating feat. EJ and his coach, Vitaly Petrov, have been trying new things and EJ has adjusted exceedingly well to the techniques and new equipment,” said Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association chief Philip Juico.
Obiena started off by clearing the heights of 5.4 and 5.6 meters in one go, before struggling with two attempts at 5.72, and later taking one try at 5.72 meters.