By KRISTEL SATUMBAGA
Pole vaulter EJ Obiena is ready for the Tokyo Games.
This he proved after beating defending Olympic titlist Thiago Braz of Brazil to win the gold medal in the Gothenburg Athletics Grand Prix in Gothenburg, Sweden Wednesday (early Thursday in Manila).
Obiena, the first of the 9 Filipino athletes to qualify to the Games, cleared the 5.70-meter barrier right on his first attempt to win the seven-player field.
The 25-year-old Tondo native also passed 5.75m but failed to clear 5.80m.
Braz, who is also Obiena’s training partner in the camp in Italy, settled for the runner-up (5.65m) while Norwegian teen Paul Haugen Lillefosse came in third (5.60m).
His winning effort, however, was slightly below his personal outdoor best of 5.81m he posted in a tournament in Italy in 2019.
That stunning feat earned for himself an Olympic berth.
The event was Obiena’s first outdoor meet after a successful indoor campaign a few months ago where he reset his national indoor mark to 5.86m while making it to the podium four times in six tournaments.
Obiena is currently ranked No. 11 in the world and is among the athletes tipped to win a medal for Team PH in the Tokyo Games.