If he will stay consistent, EJ Obiena has a strong chance to further boost his world ranking following a strong performance in the 26th Stabhochsprung-Meeting in Jockgrim, Germany last Wednesday.
Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association secretary general Edward Kho said Obiena has to figure consistently in the coming tournaments to topple Olympic silver medalist Christopher Nilsen of the United States in the second spot.
In the latest ranking released by the World Athletics, Obiena is at No. 3 with 1408 points while Olympic silver medalist Chris Nilsen of the United States is at second with 1435 behind world record holder Armand Duplantis of Sweden, who has a commanding 1612 points.
Obiena is competing against Nilsen and former Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie of France at the Athletissima event in Lausanne at press time for a chance to win the gold medal and further jack up his world ranking.
Also joining in the 10-man tournament are French pole vaulters Valentin Lavillenie, Thiabut Collet and Anthony Ammirati, Sondre Guttormsen of Norway, Ben Broeders of Germany and hometown bet Dominik Alberto.
The 26-year-old Obiena managed to beat Nilsen in the German meet in which he posted 5.81 meters to claim the gold medal while the American settled for silver with 5.71 meters.
Kho said Obiena has to work hard, beat Nilsen consistently and earn valuable ranking points if he wants to be the No. 2 pole vaulter in the world behind Duplantis.
“Their rankings are based on the points they accumulated, not just on the one time he beat him. He has beaten Nilsen head-to-head but he has yet to surpass his personal best of Nilsen,” Kho told Daily Tribune in a telephone conversation.
“The win is a good indication because a win is a win. EJ has to consistently outperform him in other competitions so he will be in a better position to overtake him in the world rankings.”
Previous reports have it that Obiena is glued at the No. 2 spot.
In fact, no less than his adviser in James Lafferty stressed that Obiena and his team led by Ukrainian coach Vitaly Petrov are working hard to further improve his performance in the ongoing outdoor season.
“EJ’s immediate goal is to pursue in earnest the No. 2 world ranking,” Lafferty said shortly after Obiena topped the German meet.
“Every competition is different in outdoor with differing weather and wind conditions. Sometimes, you go for height, other times simply to win. But more importantly, EJ won the gold last night.”
But toppling Nilsen seems doable.
Nilsen’s personal best is at six meters, only a few inches ahead of Obiena’s personal best of 5.94 meters which he tallied in the World Athletics Championships in Oregon last month.
Kho said he expects Obiena to stay focused not just on surpassing Nilsen, but also on winning the gold medal in the Southeast Asian Games and Asian Games as well as the World Championships next year.
“It’s an ominous sign for him and it’s a good thing for any athlete to get the standard before the cutoff time as he will have ample time to focus, finetune, and prepare,” Kho said.