Just around the corner

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

World No. 3 pole vaulter EJ Obiena said the other day clearing six meters is just around the corner although hes not holding his breath for it to happen. Its a goal but not an obsession. Obienas best clearance was 5.94 and when he jumped over the bar to set his personal high, replays showed that statistically, it was over six.

At the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon last July, Obiena attempted thrice to clear six. The timing wasnt right. Obiena and world No. 2 Chris Nilsen both cleared 5.94 but the American took the silver on a countback, leaving the Filipino with the bronze. Nilsen had only one attempt to jump 5.94 compared to Obienas two. Both Nilsen and Obiena failed in three tries to clear six. World No. 1 Mondo Duplantis was untouchable, taking only one attempt to clear 5.94, 6.0 and 6.06. He posted 6.21 on his second attempt.

Asked if hed like to set the record at home if plans to organize a world-class event in the Philippines push through in October next year, Obiena smiled and said he hopes to clear six before then. So far, there have been 26 pole vaulters to breach six in the world. Nilsen was the last to do it this year. Ukraines Sergey Bubka was the first to achieve the feat in 1985. Since the start of the third millennium in 2001, 17 pole vaulters have joined the Six Meter Club. No Asian has broken into the elite group.  Of the current world top 10, only four are in the clubDuplantis, Nilsen, No. 4 Thiago Braz and No. 5 Renaud Lavillenie. Obiena is the only top five vaulter not to breach the mark.

PATAFA president Terry Capistrano said Obiena shouldnt put pressure on himself to clear six. As Obiena himself said, it will come in due time. At the moment, hes enjoying his break here. Obiena returns to his training camp in Formia, Italy, late next week. Obiena said hes overwhelmed by the display of support and love from his countrymen. He never imagined it. Neither did his German girlfriend Caroline Joyeux who accompanied him here until last week when she left to resume training as an elite triple jumper. They managed to sneak in a few days of vacation in Palawan. And in his free time, Obiena has played tennis and golf. Hes also planning to do gymnastics exercises at the Training Center in Intramuros.

Obiena said bonding with his family has been a blessing as he hadnt come home since the 2019 SEA Games. He was with his father Emerson at the Tokyo Olympics last year but not with his mother Jeanette and sister Emily. Obiena had initially wanted his visit a secret. It couldnt happen. Straight from the airport, he went to the PSC office at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex to pay a courtesy call on chairman Noli Eala and was welcomed by media.

Obiena said his priority is to land a podium finish at the 2024 Paris Olympics. The qualifying mark will be announced by the international federation early next year and it could be 5.8 up to 5.85. He hasnt lost sight of his education and hopes to earn his electrical engineering degree at UST sooner or later.


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