This is the beginning of today’s column for JAPAN Forward.

By Ed Odeven

Like in war, powerful symbols exist in sports.

Within the past week, we’ve witnessed sports figures take on greater symbolism than in normal times in Ukraine and beyond. 

Ukraine’s fight for survival against invading Russia has unified the nation. As they rally behind their president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukrainians have also been inspired by courageous leaders with sports backgrounds, including two former world boxing heavyweight champions, brothers Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko.

Vitali, 50, threw his final punches as a professional boxer in September 2012. Ten years later, the Kyiv mayor said he has a duty to take up arms against Russia.

‘I don’t have another choice,” Vitali, who had 47 pro fights (and 45 victories), was quoted as saying by Daily Mail, a British tabloid. “I have to do that. I will be fighting. I believe in Ukraine. I believe in my country and I believe in my people.”

Mayor Klitschko appeared on CNN earlier this week, discussing the Russian invasion and the bravery of Ukrainian soldiers.

“We are ready to fight and ready to die,” the Kyiv mayor told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.


Read the full column here.