By KRISTEL SATUMBAGA
EJ Obiena put his bitter spat with his former association – the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) – behind and finished fourth in the star-studded ISTAF Indoor Berlin tournament in Germany Friday (early Saturday in Manila).
The national and Asian record-holder, who is yet to recover fully well from a recent knee surgery, vaulted 5.70 meters in the 8-player field expectedly won by reigning Olympic champion Armand Duplantis of Sweden, who posted a meet-best 6.03m.
Duplantis’ feat erased the previous best of 6.02m posted by Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie in 2015. He tried to set a new world record of 6.19m, hoping to beat his own mark of 6.18m.
He came agonizingly close on his third attempt with the bar wobbling before falling to the ground.
Obiena, who owns the Asian record of 5.93m, tried 5.81m but failed in three occasions.
“I was close,” he said in a video interview with the tournament organizers.
“But you know, I didn’t rehab the time and training that I should be doing. I’m not where I wanted to be. But as I said, I’ll take what I can take. I’ll enjoy what I do and I cherish every moment.”
Tokyo Olympian KC Lightfoot of the United States clinched the silver with 5.92m, while German Oleg Zernikel performed a personal-best 5.81m for the bronze.
Germany’s Bo Kanda Lita Baehre and Poland’s Piotr Lisek also finished with similar 5.70m along with Obiena but the Filipino veteran settled for the highest placing via countback.
Netherlands’ Rutger Koppelaar and Germany’s Torben Blech posted 5.45m for seventh and eighth places.
After Berlin, Obiena goes to Uppsala, Sweden for the International Pole Vault Invitational on Feb. 9, followed by the Orlen Cup in Lodz, Poland on Feb. 11. (With AFP report)