Obiena gets ‘wonderful surprise’ by ruling ISTAF Indoor event

MANILA – Ernest John “EJ” Obiena pulled off a major upset early Saturday (Philippine time) after taking home the gold medal in the men’s pole vault event of the ISTAF (Internationales Stadionfest) Indoor athletics meet at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin.

Obiena defeated host country bets Torben Blech and Oleg Zernikel for the top prize after setting the new Philippine indoor record in pole vault.

Barely a week after resetting the national record, Obiena broke his own record by soaring for 5.8 meters.

Ernest John “EJ” Obiena (File photo courtesy of Napoli Universiade)

Obiena actually ended up tied at the top with Blech, but the former clinched the tiebreaker after clearing the said height in just his first try.

Blech needed two tries to clear 5.8 meters even as both pole vaulters missed out at 5.87.

“An unexpected, surreal, pleasant, wonderful surprise. So grateful for this win!” Obiena said later in the day.

Mainly training in Italy, he is currently touring Europe as part of his preparations for the Tokyo Olympics.

Zernikel sealed the 2-3 finish for Germany after setting a new personal best of 5.72 meters, beating Robert Sobera and Piotr Lisek for the bronze as both Polish pole vaulters could only clear a season best 5.62.

Obiena is one of the four Filipino athletes who have so far earned tickets to play in the Tokyo Olympics from July 23 to Aug. 8 this year.

Other qualifiers are gymnast Carlos Yulo and boxers Eumir Marcial (men’s middleweight) and Irish Magno (women’s flyweight).

The Philippines has yet to win its first Olympic gold since it joined the prestigious Games in 1924. (By Ivan Stewart Saldajeno/PNA)