Obiena tests worth against Olympics-caliber foes


Pole Vaulter Ernest John Obiena wins Gold during the 30th Seagames at the New Clark City. MARIANNE BERMUDEZ/ INQUIRER


Pounding his chest with a clenched fist, Ernest John Obiena turned to the frenzied gallery at New Clark City right after his golden effort in the
Southeast Asian Games’ pole vault competition last year.

It was clear the reigning Asian champion and regional record holder was feeding off the energy of the crowd—them and the sight of his competitors
lining up the field tent.

But for a unique online tournament on Aug. 17, the 24-year-old Obiena won’t have those motivating factors as he competes against two fellow Tokyo Olympics qualifiers in an online championship.

They will be jumping in their respective training camps using their own setups, with action to be streamed real-time starting 9 a.m. in Manila.

“Finally, we have something to look forward to,” Obiena said in his social media post announcing the tournament aimed at going around coronavirus restrictions.

His father and coach, Emerson, said it would be the perfect tuneup for EJ, who has been training in Formia, Italy,  for more than two years now.

“That’s good for them (participants) because they get to know how they fare [against each other] and they will have an activity despite the pandemic,”
Emerson, a former national athlete himself, told the Inquirer.

Going up against Obiena are Pawel Wojciechowski of Poland and Matt Ludwig of the United States.

Wojciechowski, the 2011 World champion whose personal best is 5.93 meters, will be competing from Rome, while Ludwig, whose best vault is 5.90
meters, will beam his performance from the United States.

From Formia, Obiena will take them on and attempt to better his personal record of 5.81 meters. He registered the new mark in the Asian championship last year.

The elder Obiena said the tournament is just an exhibition match which will have a “training camp” vibe. Meaning the vaulters may not go after new
heights as much as break the rust from months of inactivity.

So instead of the official rules of three attempts per height, the jumpers may be given 30 minutes to try to clear a specified level.

“They may vary the rules because it’s like they are in training camp, where they can have as many attempts as they can,” Obiena said.

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