Obiena bags 3rd SEAG gold with record leap in rain

PHNOM PENH—Ernest John Obiena claimed a third straight Southeast Asian Games pole vault gold and obliterated the record in the rain as he jumped to a height of 5.65 meters at the drenched Morodok Techo National Stadium in Phnom Penh on Monday.

“What a way to start the indoor season,” said a rain- and sweat-drenched Obiena, who smashed the 5.46 meters he set in the Vietnam edition of the games last year.

Obiena cleared the bar right at his first attempt at 5.20, but the strong wind caused the bar to fall. This forced the official to rule it as a failed attempt, with Obiena protesting he did not touch it.

SITTING PRETTY. Ernest John Obiena seems to recline in the air after claiming his third straight Southeast Asian Games pole vault gold medal with a new record height of 5.65 meters at the drenched Morodok Techo National Stadium in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Monday. POC Photo

But it didn’t matter as the 27-year-old Obiena nonchalantly cleared it on his second attempt, and then another one at 5.20, before the strong rains forced organizers to halt the competition.

When it resumed after an hour, Obiena cleared four more heights at 5.4, 5.55, 5.60 and then at 5.65 meters to the wild celebration of a couple of national team members and coaches, and some Filipino supporters at the grandstand.

The no. 3-ranked pole vaulter in the world, with a career best 5.94, said he could have aimed for a higher mark, but was already exhausted from the long wait and the slippery ground and pole.

“Man, I’m tired,” said Obiena, who added he is auctioning the shoes he wore in the games, to raise funds for a young Tuguegarao, pole vaulter he saw on social media, teasing his help by claiming “idol, baka naman.”

Thailand’s Kasinpob Chomchanad and Patsapong Amsamarng ended up with the silver and bronze after the two leaped to identical 5.20 meters, with the former doing it in lesser tries.

Meanwhile, Kristina Knott failed to regain her 200-meter crown she won during the 2019 edition of the games when she placed fourth in the finals, clocking in at 23.79 seconds.

Singapore’s Veronica Pereira retained her crown as she timed 22.69 seconds, followed by Vietnam’s Thi Nhi Yen Tran (23.54 seconds) and Malaysia’s Zaidatul Husniah Zulkifli (23.60 seconds).

Knott emerged the darling of athletics during the 2019 games when she helped the 4×100 mixed relay team to the gold and won the 200-meters with a new record, but missed the Vietnam meet last year due to plantar fasciitis in her left foot.

“I just ran healthy and I still have two more runs to go,” the Tokyo Olympian told reporters. “At least I have a day and a half to recover because the [women’s] 4×100 relay is still on Wednesday so I’ll be ready by that time.”

Knott will try to bounce back and help the Philippine women’s 4×100 relay team on Wednesday, before plunging into action in the 100-meters on Friday.

“It’s just a straight line and not a curb. So my nerves are out, and it boosted my system. So now it’s time to have some fun,” she added. “We are still testing this SEA Games to see where I am at. This is just a stepping stone for bigger goals and it’s a long season until September.”

Hanoi games’ century dash champion Kayla Richardson, the third placer during last year’s competition in Vietnam, did not qualify for the finals, where her twin sister bagged the silver.

Thailand’s Athica Phetkun was disqualified due to a false start.

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