Personal season best nets EJ bronze in Rome
EJ Obiena
STAR/ File
Personal season best nets EJ bronze in Rome
Joey Villar (The Philippine Star) - September 19, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Pole vault ace EJ Obiena could really well be the country’s best hope for a first Olympic medal in track and field in almost a century.

Ranged against a star-studded field headed by world record-holder Armand Duplantis of Sweden, Obiena summoned his best performance of the year and snatched the bronze medal in the Rome Leg of the Diamond League in Italy yesterday.

The 24-year-old Obiena cleared a personal season best 5.80 meters that was good enough to net him a third bronze and sixth medal overall since action resumed last month.

“My third bronze, sixth medal of the season, against the top pole vaulters in the world,” said Obiena in his Facebook account. “It was a tough competition but it pushed me to record a 5.80m season’s best.”

The Southeast Asian Games gold medalist and record-holder attempted and failed to do a 5.85m that would have erased his personal best and national record of 5.81m he set in Chiara, Italy last year.

Duplantis, as expected, blew away the field, churning out a spectacular 6.15m effort to capture the gold and set a new outdoor world record.

Belgian Ben Broeders took the silver with a 5.80m via countback.

While Obiena didn’t stand a chance against the 20-year-old Duplantis, the Filipino bet once again showed hope of possibly ending a long medal drought by the Philippines in Olympic track and field in the coming Tokyo Games.

The Philippines hasn’t won a mint since Filipino-American Miguel White snared a bronze in the 400m hurdles in the 1936 Berlin Games.

“Clearly, EJ continues to more than just hold his own against the world’s best,” said athletics chief Philip Ella Juico. “Rome showed that the gold medal leap in Tokyo will be between 5.8m and 6.0m.

“EJ’s calibrated performance and training regimen does not show signs of early peaking and our bet is training hard and smart under coach Vitaly Petrov,” he added.

Obiena will close out the month by seeing action in another Diamond League leg in Doha, Qatar next week.

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