EJ Obiena managed a fourth place finish in the ISTAF Berlin meet in Germany on Sunday, a day after resetting the Asian record in men’s pole vault.
The 25-year-old still showed grit against fellow elite competitors by clearing 5.81 meters on his third attempt to finish behind two-time world champion Sam Kendricks of the United States.
Kendricks ruled the tournament via countback against fellow American and Tokyo Olympics silver medalist Chris Nilsen after both registered identical 5.91m marks.
KC Lightfoot, another American and Tokyo Olympian, came in third with 5.81m on his first attempt.
Obiena skipped 5.86m and tried 5.91m, just two centimeters shy of his 5.93m Asian record-breaking feat in the Golden Roof Challenge in Innsbruck, Austria, but lost his steam.
Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) chief Philip Juico lauded Obiena’s recent performances and credited the Olympians’ vast improvement to the coaching skills of veteran mentor Vitaly Petrov.
“The outstanding improvement in Obiena’s performance is certainly due to the technical adjustments made by coach Vitaly and executed by Obiena,” Juico said in a statement.
“Even minor and subtle adjustments, unnoticed by ordinary layman like us, can become a game changer and turning point at the highest level of a very technical and dangerous event like pole vault.”
Juico is also optimistic Obiena will continue to improve towards his long-term career goals.
“We believe Obiena is working towards consistency in his performance and a more robust mental toughness plan of action,” he said.
Obiena trended on social media over the weekend following his record-breaking performance – a sign that the Tondo native continues to turn heads despite his sport being less known to the local fans compared to basketball and volleyball.