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Obiena overcomes pressure, scare en route to Olympic pole vault final

Nelson Beltran - Philstar.com
Obiena overcomes pressure, scare en route to Olympic pole vault final
Ernest John Obiena from the Philippines, celebrates after winning in the men's pole vault athletics event at the SEA Games (Southeast Asian Games) in the athletics stadium in Clark City, Capas, Tarlac province north of Manila on December 7, 2019.
Ted Aljibe / AFP

TOKYO – Two failed attempts at 5.75m didn’t dampen EJ Obiena’s spirit and enthusiasm.

He overcame the tremendous pressure in his Olympic debut, straightening up, sprinting spritely along the runway, jamming the pole solidly against the stop board then soaring well above the bar – and into the Tokyo Games pole vault final.

TRACKER: EJ Obiena at the Tokyo Olympics

“I made it to the finals!” said Obiena, letting out a big sigh as he teetered on the brink after the two failed attempts.

“I struggled mentally then I didn’t feel confident. There’s no reason why I felt that way,” rued the Pinoy ace.

Eventually, he gained his bearing and joined 13 others that will figure in a great vault showdown Tuesday at the Japan National Stadium.

“I was sluggish and it was really strange. I didn’t feel like me until the bar was moved to 5.75. Then I moved back to my coach. I don’t want to be negative about it,” Obiena said.

“After my performance, I realized that I need to start moving and feel normal,” added Obiena, looking forward to better vaults as he vies in a blue-ribbon final versus world record holder Armand Duplantis and reigning Olympic champ Thiago Braz among others.

The Filipino bet will be No. 11 in the order of play after ranking fifth in his group in the qualifying round behind Kc Lightfoot of the United States, Kurtis Marschall of Australia, Renauld Lavillenie of France and Emmanouil Karalis of Greece.

Also making the final cast are Menno Vloon of the Netherlands, Christopher Nilsen of the USA, Bo Kanda Lita Baehre of Germany, Harry Coppell of Great Britain, Oleg Zernikel of Germany, Ersu Sasma of Turkey and Piotr Lisek of Poland.

Zernikel was the last final qualifier from Obiena’s group, making 5.65m.

Qualifying from Group B were Baehre, Nilsen, Duplantis, Vloon, Braz and Lisek all at 5.75 and Coppell and Sasma at 5.65.

Duplantis is the man to beat, being the world record holder of 6.18 with a season best of 6.10.

Braz (6.03), Lisek (6.02) and Lavillenie (6.16) have also breached the 6.00m mark, making them among the top medal contenders.

Obiena, the Asian champ, flew to Japan with a personal best and season best of 5.87.

2021 TOKYO OLYMPICS EJ OBIENA
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