By KRISTEL SATUMBAGA
Two straight days of competitions in two countries proved too heavy a schedule for pole vaulter EJ Obiena.
A day after winning the Golden Roof Challenge in Innsbruck, Austria in record fashion, Obiena settled for fourth place in the ISTAF Berlin meet in Germany on Sunday.
The travel – an hour by plane (roughly eight hours by train) – may have affected Obiena’s performance as he managed only 5.81 meters, a far cry from his record-setting 5.93 meters in winning the Innsbruck tournament.
Two-time world champion Sam Kendricks of the United States won the event via countack against fellow American and Tokyo Olympics silver medalist Chris Nilsen after both registered identical 5.91m marks.
KC Lightfoot, another American and Tokyo Olympian, came in third in 5.81m on his first attempt.
Obiena skipped 5.86m and tried 5.91m, but faltered in both occasions.
Obiena’s 5.93 meters bettered the Asian mark of 5.92 meters set by Kazakhstan’s Igor Potapovich 23 years ago.
That earned him glowing words from Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) chief Philip Juico.
Juico credited the Olympians’ vast improvement to the coaching skills of veteran mentor Vitaly Petrov.
“The outstanding improvement in Obiena’s performance is certainly due to the technical adjustments made by coach Vitaly and executed by Obiena,” Juico said in a statement.
“Even minor and subtle adjustments, unnoticed by ordinary layman like us, can become a game changer and turning point at the highest level of a very technical and dangerous event like pole vault.”
Juico is also optimistic Obiena will continue to improve towards his long-term career goals.
“We believe Obiena is working towards consistency in his performance and a more robust mental toughness plan of action,” he said.
Obiena trended on social media over the weekend following his record-breaking performance.