Obiena rues absence in World Indoors as season-best qualifies him for bronze

Delfin Dioquino

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Obiena rues absence in World Indoors as season-best qualifies him for bronze

POLE VAULT STAR. EJ Obiena at the Tokyo Olympics in Japan.

Aleksandra Szmigiel/Reuters

EJ Obiena owns a season-best clearance of 5.91 meters, which is a centimeter higher than the tally of the bronze winner in the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Serbia

MANILA, Philippines – EJ Obiena can only wonder “what if” as his season-best score of 5.91 meters could have won him a bronze medal in the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Serbia.

The Filipino pole vault star missed the World Indoors after the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association refused to endorse him for the biennial showpiece.

“What would’ve happened had I participated in the World Indoor Championships?” Obiena asked in a Facebook post, stating first that he does not really enjoy hypothetical arguments.

“What could’ve been the result had I been there? Would the Philippines have won [its] first-ever World Indoor Championships medal in athletics?”

His 5.91m clearance, which Obiena nailed to clinch silver in the Perche Elite Tour in France this month, is a centimeter higher than the 5.90m mark American Chris Nilsen posted in the World Indoors to claim bronze.

Tokyo Olympics silver medalist Nilsen, who owns a season-best of 6.05m, failed in all of his three tries to surpass 5.95m.

“I last jumped 5.91m when I set a new national indoor record. I am improving week by week and was feeling better. I believe I could have exceeded this height in the worlds had I been there,” Obiena said.

“I was improving and sharpening by the day.”

Missed chance

Obiena even argued that he could have competed for the silver, which 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games gold medalist Thiago Braz of Brazil pocketed with 5.95m.

The Filipino bested the Brazilian, his training partner, in the Orlen Cup and Orlen Copernicus Cup in Poland in February and in the Perche Elite Tour.

Meanwhile, Armand Duplantis of Sweden captured gold in another dominant performance after breaking his world record for the second time in two weeks as he soared past 6.20m.

“The silver medal winner is my good friend and a great champion. Head to head this season, he and I competed against each other five times. I won three out of those five head-to-head meets,” Obiena said.

“I can’t stop thinking that I could have fought for that bronze or fought for that silver even.”

For Obiena, it was a missed opportunity to once again bring honor to the Philippines.

“The bottom line is, our nation lost a chance for glory for no legitimate reason. I hope and pray this never happens again,” he said. “Country before all else!”

Obiena now turns his focus on the upcoming outdoor season.

“Enough of what is now lost. Saying goodbye to this indoor season with a mission.” –

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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.