By KRISTEL SATUMBAGA
Olympic-bound pole vaulter EJ Obiena settled for joint fifth place in the Meeting Hauts-de-France Pas-de Calais Tuesday at the Arena Stade Couvert in Lievin, France
In the event that gathered the virtual who’s who, Obiena managed only to clear 5.60 meters on his first attempt to tie reigning Olympic champion Thiago Braz of Brazil.
American-born Swedish Armand Duplantis captured the gold medal after soaring past the 5.86m barrier. He retired after two jumps due to an injury.
Both Obiena and Braz attempted to clear the 5.74m barrier but they failed.
Duplantis hurtled the 5.60m and 5.86m on his first attempt then passed 5.74m and 5.80m before retiring when the bar was raised at 5.92m.
Pan American champion Christopher Nilsen matched Duplantis’ 5.86m vault for second place, while 2012 Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie of France came in third with 5.80m.
Poland’s Piotr Lisek, the 2017 world championship silver medalist, finished fourth with a season-best 5.74m.
The competition was so intense that the field started vaulting at 5.30m.
Others who took part in the event were Frenchman Valentin Lavillenie (5.60m), two-time world champion Sam Kendricks of the United States (5.60m), American Jacob Wooten (5.60m), France’s Ethan Cormont and USA’s Matt Ludwig.
This was Obiena’s fourth tournament after competing in three events in Germany where he erased his national indoor mark of 5.80m at the ISTAF Indoor in Berlin a week ago.