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Obiena admits feeling like a “villain'” in Asiad conquest

Philippines' Ernest John Obiena competes in the men's pole vault final athletics event during the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou in China's eastern Zhejiang province on 30 September 2023. (AFP)

Philippines pole vaulter EJ Obiena cruised to gold in an Asian Games record on Saturday — and then said he missed not having record-breaker Armand Duplantis to compete against.

Obiena has been one of Swedish world record-holder Duplantis’s closest rivals this year, finishing second behind him at last month’s world championships in Budapest.

And no one could come close to Obiena in Hangzhou as he took gold in 5.90m — 25cm clear of his nearest challengers.

Duplantis has dominated pole vault in recent years and improved his world record to 6.23m earlier this month at the Diamond League finals.

Obiena said competing against him “brings out the best in me”.

“It doesn’t mean it’s easier to win — it’s easier to compete when he’s there,” he said.

“It doesn’t make it easier when he’s not here, it’s just different.”

Obiena said being able to dominate like Duplantis gave him a taste of “what he feels most of the time”.

But he also said he felt like “a villain” for beating home favorite Huang Bokai to the gold. Huang instead earned silver.

“It’s hard because, for the first time, I felt like it wasn’t mine,” he said.

“I felt like I was taking the medal from someone else.”

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