ERNEST JOHN “EJ” OBIENA clinched another bronze medal this time at a star-studded ninth leg of the Diamond League on Sunday when torrential rains made breaking records or even matching them close to improbable at the Stadion Slaski in Silesia in Chorzow, Poland.
Coming off an Asian record leap of 5.94 meters that clinched for the country its first medal—a bronze—at the Eugene (Oregon) World Athletics Championships two weekends ago, Obiena cleared 5.73 meters, enough to land him a podium finish behind world record holder Armand Duplantis.
Duplantis himself couldn’t go for a better number than his 6.20-meter world record he set in Eugene and satisfied himself with a gold medal-clinching 6.10 meters in Chorzow.
Norway’s Sondre Guttormsen also cleared 5.73 meters but grabbed the silver after the countback.
Obiena hinted at going for 6.0 meters and become the 25th member of the elite club of male pole vaulters who achieved the so-called “Holy Grail” of the event.
The 26-year-old Tokyo Olympian couldn’t and instead cautiously went first for 5.53 meters which he cleared twice and attempted 5.83 meters but failed.
Hometown bet Piotr Lisek was fourth overall with 5.63 meters while world championships Christopher Nilsen of the US could only finish fifth with 5.53 meters. Rio 2016 Olympic gold medalist Thiago Braz da Silva of Brazil, Thibaut Collet and Renaud Lavillenie of France couldn’t clear the opening height of 5.53 meters.
The rain made everyone toil for better heights, according to Obiena’s confidante and adviser Jim Lafferty.
“I’m still very proud of EJ [Obiena] for clearing under such awful weather. It’s done,” Lafferty told BusinessMirror. “Most of the field did so poorly and they didn’t make opening height while EJ made it third overall.”
“It’s pretty clear in this field that EJ is No. 2 or No. 3 in the world,” Lafferty said. “Duplantis is human. On the right day and right conditions, EJ can take the gold from everyone. The favorite doesn’t always win.”
Obiena immediately flew from Poland to Hungary for Monday’s Hungarian Athletics Grand Prix in Szekesfehervar.