EJ Obiena’s string of podium finishes came to a screeching halt after finishing last in the Zurich Diamond League at the Letzigrund Stadium in Zurich on Friday morning (Manila time).
Obiena, who finished inside the top three in his past 11 events, found himself huffing and puffing en route to a forgettable 5.60-meter performance in this 10-man tournament.
The 27-year-old world No. 2 pole vaulter then fell short of breaching the 5.75-meter mark twice and failed to surpass 5.85 meters in this third and final try to bomb out of the elite competition.
It was Obiena’s first meet since bagging the silver medal in the 2023 World Athletics Championships, where he tied his personal best of 6.0m, in Budapest last week.
Reigning Olympic champion Armand Duplantis was at his best as he captured the gold medal with 6.0m while Sam Kendricks of the United States settled for the silver medal with 5.95m.
Duplantis, also the world record-holder, admitted that there were still some things that he had to adjust from a golden triumph in the World Championships.
“It was difficult to wake up the body after the World Cup,” Duplantis told the Epoch Times.
“Today never really felt like a world-record competition. It was more of a pure competition and that’s how it can be.”
KC Lightfoot of the US logged 5.85m to grab the bronze medal via countback over Thibaut Collet of France and Kurtis Marschall of Australia.
Another World Athletic Championship bronze medalist, Christopher Nilsen of the US, ended up tied with Sasma Ersu of Turkey at sixth place after completing 5.75m in one attempt.
Ben Broeders of Belgium had to complete 5.75m in two attempts, putting him in eighth place with Zach McWhorter of the US taking ninth place after needing all three attempts to get over the same height.
The last time Obiena missed the podium was back in February at the Meeting Hauts-de-France Pas-de-Calais in France where he only mustered 5.64m for 10th place.
Since then, he made it to the top three in the next 11 tournaments in which he won four gold, four silver and three bronze medals.
He was also the first Filipino to book a spot in the Paris Olympics as early as July after hitting the 5.82-m qualifying mark at the Stockholm Diamond League in Sweden.
Still, there will be no rest for Obiena as he is set to compete in the ISTAF Berlin on 3 September, Sunday at the Olympiastadion in Germany.
There, he will face Nilsen, Kendricks and Lightfoot anew as well as Sondre Guttormsen of Norway and Oleg Zernikel and Gillian Ladwig of Germany.
After that, Obiena will vie in the Brussels Diamond League leg on 8 September in Belgium and the Diamond League final in Eugene, Oregon from 16 to 17 September.
Obiena is also preparing for the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China from 23 September to 8 October.