APPARENTLY feeling mentally flat, Olympic-bound pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena had a lackluster outing yesterday, clearing 5.62 meters to wind up fifth in the Janus Kusocinski Memorial athletic championships at the Silesian Stadium in Chorzow, Poland.
In a stint that even caught his father-coach Emerson by surprise, Obiena, who owns the national record of 5.81 meters, started at a low height of 5.22 before reaching his limit in the event won by two-time American world champion Sam Kendricks with a jump of 5.82 meters.
Dutchman Menno Vloon bagged the silver with a jump of 5.72 meters while Germany’s Raphael Holzdeppe settled for the bronze, clearing 5.62 meters on his first try, relegating compatriot Torben Blech, who also jumped 5.62, to fourth.
With the field reduced to five, Obiena decided to skip the last two of his three tries at the 5.72-meter mark, aiming to preserve energy in an all-out bid to clear 5.77 meters, according to the elder Obiena.
“Si EJ (Obiena’s nickname) na kasi yong last man diyan sa 5.72 kaya magiging maiksi lang ‘yung pahinga niya for the next height,” explained the former national standout. “Malaki ang energy expenditure sa ganyang level ng laro.”
The elder Obiena, who witnessed the performance of his son online during the wee hours of the morning yesterday, noted the pole vaulter nearly made it, easily clearing the bar only to graze it with his waist.
Athletics chief Philip Ella Juico, however, said that “EJ did rather well by placing fifth. We still believe that he is on course for the Olympics. He is physical prepared and the best thing to do now is to remain focused and not be distracted by extraneous concerns.”
The elder Obiena said his son’s next competition will be the IAAF Continental Cup set Sept. 8 to 9 in Ostrava, Czech Republic.
“EJ is just waiting for his invitation for that event and, hopefully, he will be able to recover from this event in time mentally,” he said.
“My son told me later after his performance that he felt flat despite giving his all. Since he was physically okay, I believe what happened to him was psychological,” the elder Obiena said, adding this might be the same fate suffered by hometown bets Pavel Wojciekowski and Robert Sobera.