IN his return to action this year, Olympic-bound pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena bagged a silver medal over the weekend, clearing 5.45 meters in the 13th Trivineto athletic championships in Trieste, Italy.
Obiena tied his gold-medal winning mark in the 30th Southeast Asian Games last December while placing second behind Brazilian Rio Olympic Games men’s pole vaul champion Thiago Braz, who cleared 5.50 meters. ItalianMax Mandusic settled for the bronze in 5.35.
Obiena set a national record of 5.81 meters in ruling the Salto Con L’Asta competitions in Piazza, Italy on Sept. 4, 2019, surpassing the Olympic qualifying standard of 5.80 meters to emerge as the country’s first qualifier for the Tokyo Olympic Games rescheduled to next year.
Obiena and Braz are stablemates at the World Athletics elite camp in Formia, Italy under noted Serbian coach Vitaly Petrov, who also mentored world and Olympic champion Sergey Bubka.
It was the initial competition for both vaulters, who figure to be rivals for the gold medal in the quadrennial sports showcase in the Japanese capital.
The athlete’s mother, Jen Obiena, said yesterday that she had a talk with her son after his performance “and EJ (Obiena’s nickname) said that his showing was so-so because he wanted to clear the bar at 5.50 meters.”
The elder Obiena said this could be due to the two-week rehabilitation the athlete underwent last month in Stuttgart, Germany to treat his recurring back spasms.
“The rehab went well but EJ said that his muscles are still recovering from the treatment, although he feels much better now,” she said.
Next up for her son, she added, is the third leg of the Diamond League athletic series on Aug. 14 in Monaco.