Ernest John “EJ” Obiena of the Philippines is on a roll as he clinched his second straight gold medal within five days at the True Athletes Classics held in Leverkusen, Germany on Sunday, August 28.
Ranked world No. 3, the Filipino pole vault star cleared the 5.81-meter mark on his second attempt, toppling Netherland’s Rutger Kopelaar and Australia’s Kurtis Marschall who also made the same record.
But Obiena’s perfect attempt to clear the 5.63 meters earned him the title.
The feat was bittersweet for him. Obiena, in a Facebook post, said that although he was happy for winning the gold, he is frustrated about missing the 5.95m mark.
He wrote, “We have boiled it down to some technical adaptations, which at these heights makes the difference between a miss or a make. Like anything in life, this is all about continual improvement,” he wrote.
Obiena build on his best record
The Asian record holder attempted to raise the bar at 5.95m in a bid to improve his personal best record, but he failed thrice.
His recent victory came on the heels of also emerging champion in the 26th Internationales Stabhochsprung-Meeting in Jockgrim, Germany, and salvaging a bronze in the Athletissima in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Obiena also made a historic bronze finish in the World Outdoor Athletics Championships in Oregon in July.
He will next compete in the St. Wendel City Jump in Germany where he continues to hit beyond the 5.95m mark.
Obiena will also see action in the Memorial van Damme in Brussels, Belgium, on Sept. 2, ISTAF Berlin on Sept. 4, and the Golden Fly in Liechtenstein on Sept. 11 to wrap up his 2022 season.
President Marcos congrats EJ
President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos congratulated Obiena on his Facebook saying, “Isang maligayang pagbati para sa ating atleta na si EJ Obiena sa kanyang pagkapanalo ng gintong medalya (Congratulations to our athlete EJ Obiena for winning the gold medal).
“Ang pinakitang gilas ni EJ sa larangan ng pole vault ay isang katangiang maaaring tularan ng mga kabataang nangangarap na maging isang atleta (EJ’s excellence in the field of pole vault is a quality that young people who dream of becoming an athlete can emulate),” the President added.
This year, Obiena also pocketed golds in the Orlen Cup in Poland on February 12 (5.81m), Orlen Copernicus Cup in Poland on February 23 (5.81m), 31st SEA Games in Hanoi on May 14, European City of Sports L’aquila Leg on May 30 in Italy (5.85m), Taby Stavhoppsgala on June 29 in Sweden (5.92m), and in the World Athletics Championships on July 25 in the USA (5.94), and the 26th Internationales Stabhochsprung-meeting in Jockgrim, Germany (5.81m).
While the year 2022 was a historic year for him, it also turned out to be his most challenging.
Obiena was recently reinstated to the national team by the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association and the Philippine Sports Commission following a long controversial rift with former Patafa president Philip Ella Juico, which was settled through a mediation, which the PSC spearheaded.
EJ Obiena overcame rough time
He faced Patafa’s serious allegations over the misuse of liquidation funds that dragged on for several months and cost him his participation in the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade, Serbia in March after his expulsion from the national team.
But the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) intervened and included Obiena in the country’s 31st Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Hanoi, Vietnam, where he defended his gold.
Two months after he and Patafa settled their affairs, Obiena finally got a needed closure when the Commission on Audit (COA) cleared him from the allegations, vindicating him.
The COA notice issued on March 31, 2022, stated that his training funds liquidation amounting to P12,324,114.40 were “in order and that we have not issued any Notice of Suspension nor Notice of Disallowance.”