Stiffer pole makes EJ fly


A STIFFER pole and two additional steps in the takeoff made Ernest John “EJ” Obiena fly 6 meters in Norway and into the elite club of world pole vault.

The shift, according to the world No. 3 Obiena, was crafted right after the Cambodia Southeast Asian Games—where he won a third consecutive gold medal—and experimented first in Poland where he kicked off his outdoor campaign.

But staying at 6 meters—or going beyond the height—is a more serious matter now for the 27-year-old.

“There’s still a lot of work to do to sustain it…but I can do it? I think so,” said Obiena, the first Asian to break the 6-meter mark. “But it’s really a good sign for everything. It’s a promise that I kept and I unlocked it. So I am very happy that everything went to plan.”

The Poland experiment at the Memorial Ireny Szewinska in Zdzislaw Krzyszkowiak yielded a bronze medal for Obiena, a good sign.

Ten days later in Norway, he soared over and above an elite eight-athlete field to become only the 28th pole vaulter to make it past the barrier.

“It’s a good sign for everything not only for the start of the Olympic qualifying but also for the rest of the tournaments like the Asian Games and the world championships,” Obiena told BusinessMirror on Wednesday.

Legendary pole vault coach Ukranian Vitaky Petrov also advised Obiena to add to steps to his usual 18-stride takeoff from the runway. And it worked well.

The Olympic qualifying window where pole vaulters need to clear 5.82 meters to make the Paris grade starts on July 1 and the world championships in Antwerp in July and the Asian Games in Hangzhou in September are two of several events where  Obiena could achieve the feat.

Obiena said Petrov was just too happy for his feat but reminded him that more work is up ahead.

“He told me—as he usually does—that competitions are not done yet,” Obiena said.

But returning to training took the backseat even for a brief moment in Norway.

“Vitaly treated me to a free meal after jumping 6 meters,” Obiena said. “Everything is in the right direction and he said and he’s very happy.”

Obiena is competing on Thursday at the Oslo Bislett Games also in Norway. He’s also lined up for the Asian championships from July 12 to 16 in Pattaya, Thailand.

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