‘Silence never helped the oppressed’: EJ Obiena expresses support for Ukraine

March 7, 2022 - 12:36 PM
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Pole vaulter EJ Obiena pointed to his baller bearing the Ukranian flag colors as support to the country amid the ongoing war. (Facebook/EJ Obiena)

Pole vaulter EJ Obiena expressed his support for Ukraine after his record-breaking jump at an indoor sports event in France.

Obiena cleared 5.91 meters in the men’s indoor pole vault at the Perche Elite Tour in Rouen, France last Saturday, (Sunday in Manila time), thus shattering his previous personal record.

His previous best was at 5.68 m that he set back in 2021.

This was also just 0.01 m short of the Asian record in the same category. It is currently held by Igor Potapovich of Kazakhstan.

Obiena tried to clear the 6.01m but failed after three attempts.

He finished second place, next to USA’s Christopher Nielsen who cleared 6.01 m in only two attempts.

Aside from this impressive feat, Obiena also took a stand with Ukraine amid its ongoing conflict with Russia.

In a Facebook post following the event, Obiena shared a photo that showed him pointing to his baller bearing the colors of the Ukranian flag.

“My heart and thoughts are with you (Ukrainian flag). Silence never helped the oppressed or the abused,” Obiena said, adding more quotes.

“Stay strong Ukraine,” he added, with blue and yellow heart emojis and hashtags “#stopwar” “#peacenotwar.”

This moment was also captured in a video released by sports news outlet, Tiebreaker Times. Obiena also shared this video on his page.

Later, his mentor James “Jim” Lafferty shared an Instagram post from sports journalist Gretchen Ho where she reported Obiena’s new record for the Philippines.

In his post, Lafferty mentioned Vitaly Petrov, the Filipino pole vaulter’s Ukranian coach.

“Here is the new national record indoors, 5.91 meters. Beautiful. And classy support for Ukraine! Great coaching Vitali Petrov!!” Obiena’s mentor said.

Petrov himself saw this post. He commented under it, saying: “Thank You my boy!!! Congratulations!”

Screenshot of the comment of Ukranian coach Vitaly Petrov under Jim Lafferty’s post captured on 7 March 2022

Last week, the Philippines took a stand and voted yes to the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly that condemned Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine’s territory.

“Mr. President, the Philippines votes Yes to the UNGA resolution and expresses explicit condemnation of the invasion of Ukraine,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

READ: Not neutral: Why the Philippines chose to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine 

Brief recap of the funding row

Last January, Petrov was caught in the middle of a legal funding row between Obiena and the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA).

The PATAFA accused Obiena of misappropriating funds that were supposedly for the coaching fees of Petrov.

The coach himself, however, denied these allegations.

In his lengthy response, Petrov claimed that it was Phillip Ella Juico, PATAFA president, who tricked him to find fault with Obiena.

READ: ‘He knows the truth’: EJ Obiena’s coach, PATAFA head exchange contradicting claims on funding row 

PATAFA later ordered Petrov’s termination of engagement and declared Lafferty as “persona non grata.”

The athletic association also eyed Obiena’s removal from the national pool.

The Philippine Olympics Committee stepped in and assured the Filipino athlete that he will still carry the Philippine flag in his future sports endeavors.

Obiena previously expressed how sorry he was that both his mentor and coach were affected by this controversy.

The pole vaulter said that Petrov treated him like “his own son” and described him as a “good man.”

“He is a good man and has treated me like his own son. I am sorry that he is being dragged into this,” Obiena said.

READ: ‘I jump for my beloved nation’: EJ Obiena still vows to carry Philippine flag amid PATAFA charges