BATTLING swirling winds, Olympic-bound Ernest John Obiena cleared 5.60 meters to finish second behind Brazilian Rio Olympic Games champion Thiago Braz yesterday (Monday in the US) in the four-man “Who is the Finest Pole Vaulter in the World” virtual contest.
Performing at the World Athletics elite training camp in Formia, Italy, Braz, a last-minute entry to the event, solved the gusty conditions better than his Pinoy training partner and cleared 5.70 meters, exceeding the 5.50 meters he did when he placed fifth in the Monaco leg of the Diamond League series last Aug. 14.
Halfway around the globe in Geneva, Ohio, US Indoor champion Matt Ludwig placed third by clearing 5.50 meters while reigning European indoor champ Pawel Wojciechowski of Poland wound up last on his home turf with a jump of 5.40 meters
Ludwig and Wojciechowski began the novel pole vault online competition on a shaky note, missing the starting height at 5.20 meters on the first of their three tries.
Both their forms were far below what they were capable of, with Ludwig owning a personal best of 5.90 meters and jumping 5.85 in winning the men’s pole vault event in the USA Track and Field Championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico last February.
Wojciechowski set a personal best 5.90 meters in clinching the gold medal at the European Indoor championships in Glasgow, Scotland last year.
The meet was not sanctioned by World Athletics so any records broken during the event would not have been recognized by the world governing body for the sport.
Considering the windy conditions, Obiena, who bagged the bronze medal with a jump of 5.70 meters in the Diamond League Monaco leg, said he was still satisfied with his performance.
“All things considered, at 5.60 meters it’s okay. I am not really complaining. I was hoping to jump 5.70 at the very least to be consistent at that height,” he said, “but it was really tough because winds were really wild. I am and just happy to be at the podium.”
He was also happy by the bounce-back performance of Braz “because it shows he’s getting back his groove.”
Obiena, the country’s first qualifier for the Tokyo Olympic Games, said it felt odd competing against rivals you could not actually see and the absence of the crowd.
“Actually, there was more pressure because we don’t really see the other guys,” Obiena noted. “With a crowd you get the adrenaline going and that surge of emotion.”
Regarding his future plans, the 30th Southeast Asian Games men’s pole vault champion said he would see what events in Europe he could take part in “and be safe in competing in them as well.”