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'Discrepancy' on EJ Obiena's final try and rules on pole vault—explained

By Camille Santiago Published Aug 04, 2021 11:47 am

Philippine bet Ernest John "EJ" Obiena finished at 11th place overall at the Tokyo Olympics men's pole vault competition last Tuesday, August 3. He registered a best clearance at 5.70m, but figured in a momentary hiccup that stalled his his third attempt at the 5.80m bar.

On his last try, Obiena had a brief discussion with the officials about a technical malfunction. He argued that his time should’ve been stopped for his final run-up. He was given a second chance to clear the height, but still failed to clear the 5.80m bar.

On Wednesday, August 4, Obiena clarified that it had something to do with the timer and that there was a "gray area" in the rules. The officials, however, were “kind enough” to let him have a fourth try.

"He pointed out the discrepancy in the timing device which indicate that when he started to run toward the cross bar, there were 56 (seconds) left before the deadline for vaulting from the start of his run up," Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association chief Philip Ella Juico said.

"But when he glanced back at the pit area after he aborted his third attempt, the clock said 15 seconds. EJ couldn’t believe that it took him about 41 seconds to finish his performance. The few seconds left didn’t allow him enough time to start again if he’s granted a fourth leap as a result of a successful protest. That’s how I understood it," he added.

So, what are the rules in pole vault?

According to World Athletics, all competitors have three attempts per height. If cleared, the jumper advances to the next height and will have three more attempts.

They can also elect to "pass" and advance to a greater height, but with only two attempts left instead of three.

Fouls are ruled when the pole dislodges the bar, or when they count a missed attempt after failing to complete a jump within the time allotted.

Three consecutive failures or "fouls" at the same height, or combination of heights, eliminates the participant. However, if a competitor fails to clear any height throughout the competition, they will get a record of "NH" or "no height".

When competitors are tied, the athlete with the fewest failures at that height will be announced as the winner. But, if competitors are still tied, "the winner will have had the fewest failures across the entire competition. Thereafter, a jump-off will decide the winner. Each jumper has one attempt and the bar is lowered and raised until one jumper succeeds at one height," wrote the World Athletics.

After his Olympic debut, where he represented not just the Philippines but even Asia as well, the 25-year-old athlete said he will have to firm up what his next plans for the sport will be.

“It’s clearly not my best day. I don’t know what happened, I think it’s more mental than physical,” Obiena told Cignal TV’s Grechen Ho.

Photo by Ben Stansall/AFP