ERNEST John Obiena closed out his Euro indoor athletics season with a jump of 5.80 meters early yesterday morning (Wednesday night in Europe) and finished third in the Copernicus Cup meet at the Arena in Torun, Poland.
The Tokyo-bound Obiena engaged in a close duel with hometown bet Piotr Lisek, the 2017 Euro indoor champion, who eventually took the silver medal via the countback after both had cleared the same height on their third and last jumps.
Two-time world champion Sam Kendricks of the US clinched the gold by clearing 5.80 meters on his first try for his second straight win in the World Athletics indoor tour following his triumph in the Orlen Cup in Lodz, Poland over the weekend.
Kendricks, Obiena and Lisek, however, failed in their respective attempts at 5.87 meters.
Brazilian Thiago Braz, the Rio Olympic Games gold medalist and Obiena’s training partner, wound up fourth with a jump of 5.60 meters in only his second outing in the indoor season.
“Last leg of the World Indoor Tour has come to an end with the conclusion of the Copernicus Cup,” Obiena said on his Instagram account shortly after completing his stint.
“Going ‘home’ with a medal and lots and lots of learning plus some bruises.”
He cited his Ukrainian coach Vitaly Petrov, who, at 83, complied with COVID-19 competition protocols to be right beside his ward.
“Thank you coach for going thru all the COVID test, travel, stress and pole transport and most importantly the patience you have given me thru and thru,” Obiena said, “ (and) hope to someday to make it all worthwhile.”
Athletics chief Philip Ella Juico said it was a fruitful outing for Obiena, the country’s first Olympic qualifier, considering he won two gold, two silver and one bronze medals out of six competitions in the indoor season.
Obiena booked a national record of 5.86 meters when he finished second in the Orlen Cup last Feb. 13 in Lodz, Poland to highlight his performance in the six events.
“EJ (Obiena’s nickname) said he felt sore all over and will go back to the World Athletics elite training camp in Formia, Italy to have rest and therapy for a week,” Juico said.
National coach Emerson Obiena, the athlete’s father, said his son and the coach would be leaving behind Braz, who still has some competitions left in his indoor schedule.
“EJ will just take a week off since he already felt the grind taking its toll. He told me that he tried to jump at 5.87 meters but he felt his legs were rubbery,” the elder Obiena said.
“What is important is that he is now jumping at 5.80 consistently so that is something he can build up on in his preparations for the Tokyo Olympic Games,” he noted.