By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
TOKYO Olympics-bound pole vaulter EJ Obiena had it golden at the 59th Ostrava Golden Spike in the Czech Republic, topping the competition early Wednesday morning, Manila time.
Part of a busy September for him, 24-year-old Obiena was in his element in notching a personal season-best 5.74 meters to win the gold medal in the tournament, which is a gold-tier event of the World Athletics Continental Tour.
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 Ostrava gold was a continuation of the steady form Mr. Obiena has been showing since resuming his season, disrupted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
In August, Mr. Obiena handed the Philippines its first medal in the Monaco Diamond League where he cleared 5.70 meters, good for third place.
It was his best outing in three appearances in the tournament, which was established in 2010.
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.
The Philippine Sports Commission and Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association have been rallying behind Mr. Obiena in his Olympic push notwithstanding the many challenges posted by the pandemic.
Mr. Obiena is set to compete in several more events this month, including the Rome, Italy, leg of the Diamond League on Sept. 17.