EJ OBIENA’S name is now written in the stars.
Delivering a performance to remember, Mr. Obiena captured a historic bronze medal while setting a new Asian record in the star-studded men’s pole vault of the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon in the United States yesterday.
The 26-year-old World No. 6 cleared 5.94 meters on his second attempt that proved enough to seal him the country’s breakthrough podium finish in the biennial meet while eclipsing the Asian mark of 5.93m he himself set in the Golden Roof Challenge in Innsbruck, Austria a year back.
Mr. Obiena, who made it to the final after making the top 12 with a 5.75m Saturday, went for another best, a 6.00m that would have sealed him silver had he cleared it, but failed in three tries.
Tokyo Olympics gold medalist and world-record owner Armand Duplantis expectedly topped the event by setting another new mark at 6.21m while Christopher Nilsen of the US snared the silver with a 5.94m after edging Mr. Obiena via count back as the American cleared it on his first try.
Mr. Obiena’s feat will be most remembered by that moment when he stood up side by side with Duplantis and Nilsen during the awarding ceremony as it validated his status as part of the constellation of the stars of the sport.
The Southeast Asian Games gold medalist could cement his status even further if he could replicate his recent feat in the 2024 Paris Games where he would seek the country’s first Olympic medal since Miguel White bagged a 400m hurdles bronze in the 1936 Berlin Games.
There was a point during the competition though that Mr. Obiena gained the upper hand over Mr. Duplantis when he cleared 5.87m on his first attempt while the magnificent Swedish faltered on his first try after his hand touched the bar during his descent.
It was a rare occurrence that Mr. Obiena momentarily experienced as Mr. Duplantis took charge from there and blew him and the field away with a fantastic vault after fantastic vault.
The medal though was enough to make the whole country back home happy and proud of this unforgettable moment in history.
American Chris Nilsen jumped 5.94m to take silver on countback ahead of the Philippines’ Ernest John Obiena, who won his nation’s first World Championships medal.
“This was something I really wanted but I do not know if I was expecting it,” Mr. Obiena said.
“I definitely did not expect that I would jump that high. And I would not think that it would actually take that high to win a medal.”
“This is for you, thank you for sticking with me for all those tough times,” said Mr. Obiena when asked by ABS-CBN’s TJ Manotoc during yesterday’s interview what’s his message is to the country. — Joey Villar with report from Reuters