TOKYO Olympics-bound Filipino pole-vaulter EJ Obiena treks back to the field on Thursday to compete at the Golden Gala in Italy.
Had it steady in the last few weeks as he continues to prepare for his Olympic quest, 24-year-old Obiena is looking to stay sharp in the Rome leg of the Diamond League.
Mr. Obiena, 16th-ranked in the world, is coming off a gold, medal-winning performance at the 59th Ostrava Golden Spike in the Czech Republic last week, a showing made all the more impressive because he was up against some of the top pole-vaulters in the world.
At the Otrava tournament, which is a gold-tier event of the World Athletics Continental Tour, Mr. Obiena was in his element in notching a personal season-best 5.74 meters to win the gold.
Mr. Obiena edged France’s Renaud Lavillenie by way of countback after the two cleared similar heights on their second attempts.
Mr. Lavillenie was the silver medallist in the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Brazil.
Finishing third in the Czech Republic event was Sam Kendricks of the United States, who cleared 5.64 meters.
Completing the top five were Rio Olympics gold medallist Thiago Braz of Brazil with 5.64, and Raphael Holzdeppe of Germany with 5.54 meters.
“Thank you God for the long, awaited win. I offer this to Your given grace,” said Mr. Obiena on a Facebook post following his victory.
“Truly grateful for the gold medal win at the 59th Ostrava Golden Spike Tournament held at the Czech Republic, against the world’s bests in pole vault. Thank you Philippines, truly proud to represent you,” he added.
The Filipino pole-vaulter, who won a gold medal for the Philippines in last year’s Southeast Asian Games, has been a steady fixture on the podium since resuming his season, disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
On Aug. 29, he won a bronze in the Monaco leg of the Diamond League.
He also won a bronze recently at the Poznan Athletics Grand Prix 2020 in Poland.
Mr. Obiena qualified for the rescheduled Olympics in 2021 last year in Chiara, Italy, where he jumped 5.81 meters, above the Olympic standard of 5.80.
He is one of four Filipinos who are already assured of a spot in the quadrennial Games, the others being gymnast Carlos Yulo, and boxers Eumir Felix Marcial and Irish Magno. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo