Freeman Cebu Sports

Sinner or saint

WRECKORDER - FGS Gujilde - The Freeman

A child sent to school, accused of not paying tuition, but graduated with honors. This likens the plot in the curious case of pole vaulter EJ Obiena whose world-renowned coach, Vitaly Petrov, spoke one last time about the controversy. He has no issue with the Filipino. He neither reached out to the athletics association nor complained about his salary he is fully paid of, even a little higher. He was misled to answer leading questions and tricked into signing a document. And he withdraws any prior statements or documents attributed to him.

A witch hunt, he sums it up. This asks more questions than it gives answers. It appears there was basis for the athletics association to probe nonpayment of salary, his own statements that he now retracts. But why the confusion? Was it language barrier? The coach is Ukrainian who speaks English, but not as rimless as how his wards vault a centimeter above that unreachable star of a barrier. But sure he can communicate. Otherwise, Obiena would not have absorbed his wisdom transformed into athletic stardom. He just rewrote Asian pole vault record.

Or is there coach-athlete jargon foreign to sports officials and fans? Was it the way questions were asked? Filipino English is different from American English or British English or elsewhere, no matter how we copy, falsely hoping to sound better. Did he have a valid complaint at first but was preemptively sanitized? He claims there were instances when he was not paid on time. Was there a time when it was too late he had more time to complain?

Interesting questions mooted by the supposed aggrieved party who emphatically cleared the supposed offender of any wrongdoing. No one better proves payment than the unpaid. But the athletics chief denied tricking the coach. Impossible, due to distance. How far? They live in different time zones. He now shifts the burden to the coach who knows the truth and at the same time invokes duty to protect public money. Correct, we know they mean well, but when the means are mean, it brings out the worst, and best, in men.

And EJ rose to the occasion, the same way he rises above the bar. Each time. With precision, elegance and dignity. After speculations of early retirement and change of allegiance, he promised to continue playing the sport, for flag and country. This despite juicy offers from other countries that treasure their athletes rather than designate them treasurer. The world number 6 is bitter with how he is treated here, but he refuses better treatment elsewhere, including a better life and a better future. EJ calls it loyalty. It is more than that. It is patriotism. Not even. It is martyrdom.


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