Obiena in acid test
MANILA, Philippines — Olympic pole vault qualifier EJ Obiena battles seven athletes, including four in the top 10 world rankings, at the Copernicus Cup in Torun, Poland, this morning (Manila time) with the goal of claiming a third gold medal since the start of the European indoor season last month.
Obiena, 25, is ranked world No. 14 with a personal indoor best of 5.86 meters. In Torun, he’s up against No. 2 Sam Kendricks of the US, No. 3 Piotr Lisek of Poland, reigning Olympic champion/No. 6 Thiago Braz Da Silva of Brazil and No. 8 Pawel Wojciechowski of Poland. The others are No. 25 Matt Ludwig of the US, No. 27 Robert Sobera of Poland and unranked teenager Matvey Volkov of Russia. Kendricks, 28, has a personal indoor best of 6.01 with Lisek, 28, at 6.0, Da Silva, 27, at 5.93 and Wojciechowski, 31, at 5.9. The world record of 6.18 is held by 21-year-old Armand Duplantis of Sweden.
So far, Obiena has competed in five indoor meets this year, claiming two golds and a silver. He topped the Internationales Stadionfest Indoors in Berlin with a leap of 5.80 last Feb. 5 and the PSD Bank Indoor Meeting with a jump of 5.65 in Dortmund two days later. Obiena took the silver at the Orlen Cup in Lodz, Poland, with a new Philippine mark of 5.86 last Saturday. He was fifth at both the Karlsruhe Indoors in Karlsruhe, Germany last Jan. 29 and the World Athletics Indoor Tour in Lievin, France, last Feb. 10.
PATAFA president Philip Juico said Obiena’s performance is a clear indication that he’s ready for a podium finish at the Olympics. Because of the pandemic, conditions are unusual in sports but Obiena has persevered in training and is coming close to peak form. The day after striking gold at the SEA Games in December 2019, Obiena flew back to Formia, Italy, which has been his base the last six years, and hasn’t since come home. He recently relocated to a new base in Padova, another Italian city, after Formia was locked down due to rising COVID cases. Juico said the PSC is supporting Obiena all the way to Tokyo and is footing a bill of about P4,200 a day just for lodging. The PSC is also shouldering the expenses of Obiena’s Ukrainian coach Vitaly Petrov and Italian physiotherapist Francesco Viscusi.