FILIPINO pole-vaulter EJ Obiena continued to gain confidence on his way to the Paris Olympics where he hopes to shoot for the gold medal after he ruled the Los Angeles Grand Prix in California yesterday.

The Asian champion and World No. 2 cleared 5.80 meters in snaring the mint and besting Norwegian Simen Guttormsen and American KC Lightfoot, who took the silver and bronze, respectively.

Mr. Guttormsen, Mr. Lightfoot and Tokyo silver medalist Chris Nilsen of the United States all ended up with 5.70m but the first two took the podium finish via count back the latter wound up fourth.

It wasn’t the distance Obiena wanted but it still got the job done.

He had two victories early in the year with the first coming in the Memorial Josip Gasparac in Croatia where he had 5.83m and the other in the ISTAF Indoor in Berlin, Germany where he did a 5.93m both last January.

Hoping to join Mr. Obiena in Paris was Lauren Hoffman, who gained headway in her Olympic bid after finishing fifth in the women’s 400m hurdles where she timed in 55.84 seconds.

Ms. Hoffman’s clocking barely grazed the national mark of 55.72 she set in the Drake Relays in Iowa last month that improved her current world rankings of No. 32, which is still within the range of the 40 Paris Games slots for her event.

There are two ways for her to qualify, the first via making the Olympic standard 54.85 or via the top 40 rankings in the 400m hurdles.

And it looked like Ms. Hoffman is going to take the latter route. — Joey Villar