Pole vaulter EJ Obiena made history Sunday (Monday in Manila) after capturing a record-breaking bronze medal in the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
The 26-year-old Olympian, who is ranked No. 6 in the world, cleared the bar at 5.94 meters with plenty of room to spare on his second attempt to eclipse his own Asian and national mark of 5.93m set in the 17th Golden Roof Challenge in Innsbruck, Austria last year.
What made the feat extra special was that he became the first Filipino to make it to the podium of the prestigious tournament.
As expected, Mondo Duplantis of Sweden showed why he’s the world’s best pole vaulter after clearing 6.21m for an elusive first world title and a new world record.
American Chris Nilsen, who won the 2020 Tokyo Olympics silver medal, settled for another silver on countback from Obiena.
At one point, Obiena led the field along with training partner, 2016 Rio Olympics champion Thiago Braz of Brazil, after Duplantis and Nilsen needed two attempts to clear 5.87m.
Obiena’s feat was his eighth podium finish this year – including five gold medals. His last golden finish came at the Jump and Fly Meet in Hechingen, Germany last July.
With this achievement, Obiena further boosted his medal campaign in the 2024 Paris Olympics, where he aims to become the first Filipino to win an Olympic medal since Miguel White won the bronze in the men’s 400m hurdles of the 1936 Berlin Games.
It also bolstered his preparations for the delayed 19th Asian Games scheduled next year in Hangzhou, Asia where he also seeks to end a gold-medal drought in athletics.
The last time athletics went home with an Asian Games gold medal was in 1986 when Lydia de Vega ruled the women’s 100m dash.