Obiena strikes gold anew

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    WHILE the jumps were relatively low, Tokyo-bound pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena survived a riveting duel with German Oleg Zernikel to rule the men’s pole vault event in the PSD Bank Indoor meet in Dortmund, Germany early yesterday morning (Sunday night in Europe).

    Obiena secured his second straight victory in the Euro athletic indoor season with a jump of 5.68 meters on his first try in the seven-man field, relegating Zernikel to runner-up honors at the 3,000-seat Helmut-Kornig Halle.

    Zernikel took the silver by clearing 5.65 meters while compatriot Torben Blech settled for the bronze at the same height but with more attempts.

    Obiena topped the ISTAF Berlin meet at the Mercedes Benz Arena three days ago with a new national indoor record of 5.80 meters.

    “EJ (Obiena’s nickname) was a bit tired since he travelled five hours overland alone to reach Dortmund in time for his meet,” Jen Obiena, the athlete’s mother, disclosed yesterday of his son’s trek to the city located 492.1 kilometers southwest of the German capital.

    “Medyo mukhang pagod nga po,” echoed the pole vaulter’s father, national coach Emerson Obiena, who watched his son’s performance on video streaming.

    Showing the fitness and conditioning that has kept him consistent in his first two indoor events, Obiena was solid in clearing 5.45, 5.55 and 5.65 meters all on his first attempts, a feat matched by Zernikel, a silver medalist in the German indoor games in Leipzig in February of last year.

    Blech, who began his campaign at the height of 5.35, needed his third and last try to clear 5.65 meters to remain in the fray as the rest of entries faded away.

    The two hometown bets and Obiena decided to skip the next height at 5.73 meters and requested that it be raised to the 5.81-meter mark, only for all three of them to fail.

    Since Obiena and Zernikel secured the jump at 5.65 meters in one go, they were left to break the tie at 5.73 meters, but both muffed it as well, paving the way for another jump-off at 5.68 meters, which the former wrapped up on his first jump.

    The elder Obiena said his son will proceed to Lievin, France, another five-hour road trip, for his next competition, the Hauts-de-France Pas-de-Calais at the Arena Stade Couvert de Lievin starting today (Wednesday in Manila).

    The competition is a World Athletics Tour gold meet where winners in each event will win $3,000 (roughly P144,133).