Using a longer, stiffer pole, Ernest John Obiena was able to set two new records and go to toe-to-toe with Swedish wonder Armand “Mondo” Duplantis and the world’s best on Sunday afternoon (Monday in Manila) in the 2022 World Athletics Championships at the Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.
Coach Vitaly Petrov told Obiena to change his pole to a more flexible, 5.25-meter stick and this allowed him clear 5.94 meters on his second attempt at that height.
“I did not tweak a lot. I just went up on a bigger pole and did the same exact thing,” recalled the 26-year-old Obiena in a Zoom huddle with scribes, a day after bagging the pole vault bronze medal behind eventual champion Duplantis and runner-up American Chis Nilsen.
Petrov, according to Obiena, noticed that the pole he was using upon reaching such height was not stiff enough and needed to be changed.
“Coach said ‘the pole is too soft for you’, and that’s what we did. And it’s not the biggest pole I had in my life. But it’s good enough to jump 6.0 meters,” said Obiena.
With a lengthier, stiffer pole in his arsenal, Obiena expressed confidence that he will be able to hold his ground again when he meets Duplantis and Nilsen again in two weeks’ time. The 6’2” Obiena is getting ready to be back in action in the Poland leg of the Diamond League this August and another competition in Hungary after that.
The Diamond League, the ninth event of the season, is set to take place in Chorzow, Silesia.
After that, it’s off to Hungary for Obiena for the Hungarian Athletics Grand Prix in Szekesfehervar on August 8.
Last month, Obiena returned to his winning ways after testing positive for Covid-19, securing the gold medal in the Taby Stavhoppsgala pole vaul event in Sweden.
Obiena, who is still Asia’s top male pole vaulter, cleared 5.92 meters at that time and said the experience was quite tough.
“Having all that happening the past few months, you know, getting Covid and all that, I just knew I had a shot, and I need to maximize it and do the best that I can. I guess at that day, the best I can was 5.94,” said Obiena.
The feat has distinguished Obiena as the first Filipino and Asian athlete to win a podium finish in the pole vault of the 29-year old meet.
The Tondo, Manila-born Obiena cleared the height on his second try, and this allowed him to surpass his highest leap of 5.93 meters, which he set last year in the 2021 Golden Rooftop Challenge in Innsbruck, Austria.
James Lafferty, one of Obiena’s main supporters, said the recent pole vault competition was among the fiercest in World Athletics history as it was the first time that four competitors like Duplantis, Nilsen, Obiena and Thiago Braz have managed to clear 5.87.
“Our very own EJ Obiena has earned a medal in what has been the most difficult and competitive competition in the history of World Athletics,” said Lafferty.