NO ONE was really surprised EJ Obiena has scaled Mt. Olympus again.
There was that sense of inevitability that the name of the World No. 3 pole-vaulter from the Philippines was already written in the stars even before arriving in Stockholm, Sweden for the Wanda Diamond League’s Bauhaus Galan.
And on Sunday night in the Swedish capital, the Filipino Asian record-holder executed what he originally set out for and vaulted to 5.82 meters and straight into next year’s Paris Olympics where he will make his second appearance since the 2021 Tokyo tilt.
It came a month after the Southeast Asian Games king’s record-setting six-meter effort in the Sparebanken Vest Bergen Jump Challenge in Norway that put him in the elite 6m club where he will breathe the same rarified air by a legendary group that included former world and Olympic champion Sergey Bubka.
Thanks to the feat, Mr. Obiena became the first Filipino to make the Olympic cut and, as top Philippine sports officials hope, would open the floodgates for countless others of his countrymen to follow.
He also snatched a silver medal in the process.
Never mind that he lurked behind the shadow of the almighty Armand Duplantis — the sport’s demigod — again after the Swedish dragon unleashed what appeared to be an effortless 6.05m for the gold.
What was important was the fact that he will make his second Olympic appearance that he hopes to use as his road back to redemption following a forgettable 11th-place performance in the Tokyo Games two years ago.
It was that Tokyo experience that is fueling Mr. Obiena’s motor in launching his quest at delivering the country its first Olympic medal in the sport since Miguel White’s 400m hurdles bronze in the 1936 Berlin Games.
With his place in Paris already ensured, Mr. Obiena will have all the time to focus on just improving and reaching peak form.
And, if fate would allow it, he could find a way at taming the beast in Mr. Duplantis someday. — Joey Villar