TOKYO – Ernest John Obiena kissed his hopes for a medal goodbye after failing to clear the bar at 5.8 meters thrice in the men’s pole vault finals at the Tokyo National Stadium here on Tuesday.
Obiena’s personal best and Philippine record stands at 5.87, way above the 5.8 he was trying to clear.
After what looked like a foul attempt on his third try, Obiena approached the officials’ table to protest the apparent disparity between the display clock and the official clock located near their table.
Realizing the mistake, officials gave Obiena another opportunity, but the Philippines’ top pole vaulter, his momentum derailed by the error, again failed to leap over the clearance.
“You could see the desire was there to win, but in accordance with the rules, he knew his rules and rights and set things right. The best is yet to come for EJ and for the Philippine Athletics,” said Popoy Juico, president of the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association. “Mabuhay si EJ, mabuhay ang Pilipinas."
As highly anticipated, Mondo Duplantis of Sweden won the gold after beating Chris Nilsen of the United States.
Duplantis cleared 6.02 meters in just one try, while Nilsen missed out on the said height in all his three tries.
Duplantis, who never had a miss in his first four attempts, went all in and tried to break his own world record.
However, he fouled all his three tries at 6.19 meters, which in effect keeps the Olympic record at 6.03 as cleared by Brazil's Thiago Braz back in 2016 in Rio De Janeiro.
Braz, who has been Obiena's longtime training partner in Italy, settled for the bronze after only clearing 5.87 meters.
In a press statement, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar lauded Obiena for his “world-class talent”.
“We and the whole Filipino nation are very proud of the admirable performance that EJ Obiena has displayed in the Men’s Pole Vault Competition during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games,” Andanar said.
Despite Obiena’s failure to clinch an Olympic medal, his performance still makes his fellow Filipinos proud of him, Andanar said.
“Your exemplification of the Filipino spirit and sportsmanship did not only bring historic success to our nation, but also greatly inspired us to lift each others’ spirits during these tough times,” he said. (With reports from Ivan Stewart Saldajeno & Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos/PNA)