EJ Obiena beats reigning Olympic champ to rule Swedish tourney

Published June 3, 2021, 12:35 PM

by Kristel Satumbaga-Villar

EJ Obiena (MB File Photo)

Pole vaulter EJ Obiena toughened up his Tokyo Olympics preparations after capturing the gold medal in the Gothenburg Athletics Grand Prix in Gothenburg, Sweden Wednesday (early Thursday in Manila).

Obiena, the first of the nine Filipino athletes who qualified to the Games, cleared the bar at 5.70 meters on his first attempt to dominate the seven-player field that included reigning Olympic champion Thiago Braz of Brazil.

The 25-year-old Tondo native passed 5.75m and tried to clear 5.80m, but failed.

Braz, who is also Obiena’s training partner in the camp in Italy, settled for the runner-up honors with 5.65m, while Norwegian teen Paul Haugen Lillefosse came in third with 5.60m.

Despite the feat, his performance was still shy of his personal outdoor best of 5.81m he posted in a tournament in Italy in 2019 that earned him the Olympic berth.

This is Obiena’s first outdoor meet after a successful indoor campaign a few months ago where he reset his national indoor mark to 5.86m while winning four podium finishes out of six tournaments.

Obiena is currently ranked No. 11 in the world and is among the athletes tipped to win a medal for Team PH in the Tokyo Games.