EJ Obiena Ends Olympics Without a Medal, But Still Went Further Than Any Filipino in Pole Vault

Still a huge accomplishment.

EJ Obiena ends the 2020 Tokyo Olympics without a medal, but with another record broken for the Filipino sporting community. Obiena placed 11th in men’s pole vault finals after failing to pass 5.80 meters.

After his third and last attempt to clear 5.80 meters, Obiena stopped short of making the jump and argued with the referees about issues with the clock and the uprise moving up. Obiena could be heard contesting, “How can I jump if the bar is moving?”

The officials listened to Obiena, who made a fair case, and Obiena was given another chance to jump. However, he failed to clear 5.80 meters and bowed out of the competition in 11th place.

Based in Italy, Obiena has regularly competed against the world’s best high flyers and won. At the Ostrava Golden Spike in September, 2020, Obiena beat Rio medalists Thiago Braz from Brazil and Renaud Lavillenie from France.  

Braz was the world’s former champion after seizing the gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Braz and Obiena are training partners under the tutelage of pole vault legend, coach Vitaly Petrov, who the have even called the coach of champions.


Still a Record-Breaker

Although he didn’t medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Obiena still achieved plenty while competing against the world’s best. Obiena went further than any Filipino has before in the pole vault event, and making it to the finals was already an achievement in itself.

Athletics has always been a category dominated by Western teams, and the Philippines has managed to secure only two bronzes in athletics in its entire Olympic history. Simeon Toribio won bronze in men’s high jump in 1932, while Miguel White won bronze in the men’s 400 meter hurdles in 1936.

No Filipino has secure anything higher than a bronze in athletics, and no other Filipino apart from Obiena has ever made it to the pole vault finals.

Medal or not, Obiena has already set and reset records countless times for future Filipino pole vaulters, paving the way for a future champion, should the day come. By all accounts, it could be Obiena himself as the 25-year-old still has plenty of years ahead of him.

And like gymnast Carlos Yulo, Obiena is already no doubt preparing for Paris 2024.

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Anri Ichimura
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