Pole vaulter EJ Obiena cheered for making his case before Olympics officials

August 4, 2021 - 2:59 PM
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Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Athletics - Men's Pole Vault - Final - Olympic Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - August 3, 2021. Ernest Obiena of the Philippines in action (Reuters/Aleksandra Szmigiel)

While he missed out on a medal, Filipino pole vaulter EJ Obiena earned praises for winning a case before officials of the Olympics men’s pole vault final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on August 3.

Obiena registered a clearance of 5.70m and finished at 11th place with Germany’s Bo Kanda Lita Baehre.

Former Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te was among the Filipinos who saw this and shared his support to Obiena on Twitter.

“EJ Obiena argued his case and won it. Good example of knowing the rules and being able to assert your position. Congrats on making the final round,” Te said.

The veteran human rights lawyer was referring to Obiena’s adorable Spongebob Squarepants socks that earned some buzz from fans online.

One Twitter user shared a video wherein Obiena was in deep discussion with an official.

The video showed him assertively pleading for another attempt to clear the bar at 5.80 meters.

This exchange between Obiena and officials did not go unnoticed among some Filipinos online.

After he was given another shot, social media users expressed their admiration for his courage and determination to advocate for himself.

“It’s just touching to see how he fought till end,” one user said.

“Love that he advocated for himself under difficult circumstances. He’s a great example. Congratulations, EJ! You have made Philippines proud on the world stage many times, and I hope you choose to compete again,” another user wrote.

Based on reports, Obiena initially declined to give more details about what transpired during the discussion. He only mentioned it was about the “gray area” in the rules.

Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association president Popoy Juico said in a Spin.ph report that the dispute was about a discrepancy in the timing device that the Filipino pole vaulter noticed before each of the two jumps.

“He pointed out the discrepancy in the timing device which indicate that when he started to run toward the crossbar, there were 56 [seconds] left before the deadline for vaulting from the start of his run up. But when he glanced back at the pit area after he aborted his third attempt, the clock said 15 seconds,” Juico said.

In an interview on Cignal TV, a clip of which was shared by correspondent Gretchen Ho, Brazil’s Thiago Braz also thought Obiena would receive a medal.

“He deserves a medal, but I don’t know what happened today. But I wish him a very good luck in the next one,” Braz said.

Following the event, cheers and praises continued to pour out to Obiena on social media. Filipinos rallied behind him for doing his best during the Olympic game.

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