ERNEST John "EJ" Obiena of the Philippines dealt world champion Arman "Mondo" Duplantis his first defeat at the Diamond League meet in Brussels and bagged his third gold in the men's pole vault on Friday (Saturday in Manila).
"It took a lot of luck, a good day and some excellent calls to beat Mondo today," said Obiena who cleared 5.91 meters on the third time of asking as the 22-year-old US-born Swede failed to pass the same height three times, falling to the mat on the third botched effort with a gaping mouth in stunned disbelief.
Before this, Obiena won the gold at St. Wendel City Jump in Germany on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) and at the 2022 True Athletes Classic at the Manforter Stadio in Leverkusen, also in Germany last Sunday (Monday in Manila),
It was a rare loss in a sparkling season for Duplantis who won 17 competitions, 14 achieved with vaults over the 6-meter barrier. Those victories have seen Duplantis seal world indoor gold in Belgrade in March and world outdoor honors in Oregon in July. Both were achieved with world record vaults, of 6.20m and 6.21m, respectively.
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Asian champion Obiena, a bronze medallist at the Eugene worlds, has a personal best of 5.94m, which he vaulted in Oregon.
"It's always my goal to win, but I definitely have the magic number of 6m on my mind. That's what I´m training for and I really think that I'm capable of jumping that height," said Obiena whose feat on Friday put him at third on this season's world outdoor list, behind Duplantis and American Chris Nielsen, who went clear at 6m dead in May.
"It's only a matter of time and some good circumstances," said Obiena.
'Could have jumped higher'
Looking back on his defeat, Duplantis said he "did a lot of things poorly technically."
"It's rare for me to jump the way I did. Maybe I needed a bit of a wake-up call. I've got to come back next year and do something more special for the people that came out," said Duplantis who maintained that he felt he could have jumped higher.
"But I didn't jump as I would have liked, for sure. I am human and I make mistakes, and I definitely made some today," said Duplantis, a meticulous perfectionist in a notoriously technically-testing discipline that needs mastery of the runway approach, proper handling of the pole and complete confidence in the exacting projection upwards and over the bar."
"I didn't find the good rhythm on the runway today. I was just thinking about the wrong things. It happens sometimes. It's not that easy. You need to be in the exact angle and you need the speed to take off and I didn't find that today," he said.
Come back stronger
Duplantis said he would aim to improve by the time of next week's Diamond League finals in Zurich.
"In Zurich I'll try to come back a little stronger than here. I want to put up another good performance at the end of the year and end on a high."
For very many meets, Duplantis has completely dominated his competition.
Waiting patiently to enter at a height that has normally seen a couple of rivals already out, the Swede makes sure of the victory and then goes to plus-6m before deciding whether to have another tilt at the world record.
Nielsen, who finished third, was not happy.
"Third with 5.71m is all I can say. No one produced any good marks today except Ernest John (Obiena) with a first Diamond League win," he said.
"Everyone is a little tired with the end of the season. I am ready to go to the Diamond League Final. In Zurich the goal is a top three and 5.90m.
"If I make this I will shoot for 6m. I maybe need to do some speedwork because I felt kind of sluggish today," said Nielsen.