ERNEST JOHN “EJ” OBIENA caught Armand Duplantis on his bad hair day and pulled one off the world and Olympic champion and world record holder by snatching gold at the Wanda Diamond League’s Memorial Van Damme leg on Saturday in Brussels, Belgium.
Obiena cleared 5.91 meters—3 cms off his Asian men’s pole vault record—on his third attempt to steal the thunder from the seemingly unbeatable man they call “Mondo,” who settled for the silver medal with 5.81 meters.
American Christopher Nilsen grabbed the bronze with 5.71 meters. Duplantis, Nilsen and Obiena are 1-2-3 in the world, having finished in that order at the world championships in Eugene, Oregon, last July.
And how ecstatic Obiena was after his conquest—his fourth gold medal in 10 days in his European outdoor season campaign.
“I have no … really … idea what happened. I am tired and no joke,” Obiena told BusinessMirror via voice message on Saturday, adding that he was instructed by long-time trainer, legendary Ukrainian Vitaly Petrov, “to simply go for it.”
Duplantis went for his habitual target of 6.0 meters but he’s day was off. Nilsen targeted 5.81 meters thrice and failed.
“My run was half a meter short, and Vita [Petrov] was just like ‘we’re here to compete, so freaking compete, and compete EJ,’” Obiena, 26, said.
“Vita told me ‘What are we going to do then? It doesn’t matter what is your run, you put the bar closer. You use a smaller pole if we need to but maximized every attempt and just take off,,” Obiena added.
“And that last attempt, I just gave all that I can and the bar was still there so wow! So wow,” he said.
It was Obiena’s fourth gold in the last 10 days—also his seventh gold in the outdoor season since retaining the title at the Hanoi 31st Southeast Asian Games last May.
Dutch Rutger Koppelar placed fourth with 5.71 meters and Rio Olympics gold medalist Thiago Braz da Silva was fifth also with 5.71 meters.
Obiena immediately returned to Germany for the ISTAF Berlin on Sunday. He caps his outdoor competition on September 11 at the Golden Fly in Shaan, Liechtenstein.