EJ Obiena missed a podium finish, but still came up with a gallant stand in the 2021 Wanda Diamond League finals at the Stadion Letzigrund in Zurich early Friday (Manila time).
The 25-year-old vaulter failed to land a medal as he registered 5.83 meters in this tourney where the world’s best athletes are seeing action.
World record holder Armand Duplantis of Sweden had proven that he deserves the Tokyo Olympics crown when he posted 6.06 meters to claim the gold medal while Sam Kendricks of the United States settled for the silver medal with a 5.93-meter performance.
Russian Timothy Murgov also tallied 5.93 meters, but he settled for the bronze via countback.
Duplantis, actually, tried to shatter his own record of 6.18 meters, but he failed in three attempts, sending the crowd of around 20,000 roaring in delight and amusement.
He pocketed $30,000 – or roughly P1.5 million – on top of a Diamond League trophy.
American Chris Nilsen, the silver medalist in the previous Olympics, finished fifth while compatriot KC Lightfoot posted the same mark as Obiena with 5.83 meters.
They, however, settled for fifth and sixth places, respectively, via countback.
Despite missing a medal, Obiena’s father and national team coach, Emerson, was impressed with his son’s performance in the prestigious tourney.
“Seeing his performance, we can say that he’s already getting that consistency in the 5.80 meters,” Emerson told the Daily Tribune yesterday.
“It has always been our observation that it really takes time before you can get that kind of consistency.”
Following his underwhelming 11th place finish in the Tokyo Games, Obiena turned things around after making strides in the international stage.
The former University of Santo Tomas star shattered his personal best and set a national record when he cleared 5.91 meters at the Paris leg of the Wanda Diamond League last month.
His feat catapulted him further in the upper crust of the world rankings as he is now seated at fifth with a score of 1,361 points.
A string of impressive performances also helped him crack his way in the top six of the league tourney, becoming the only Filipino athlete to compete in the Diamond League finals.
Emerson, however, said Obiena is still pitted for two to three more competitions in Europe, where he is set to defend his title in the 60th Ostrava Golden Spike Tournament in Czech Republic and 2021 Golden Roof Challenge in Austria.
With that, their ultimate goal is to replicate another 5.91 meter-performance abroad.
“He already made a 5.91 leap before. Our goal now is to replicate that feat more often,” Emerson said.
“For me, it’s a good indicator that he is now getting that courage. Hopefully, he can be consistent in the 5.90 meters soon.”