The whole world has had “Olympic fever” for the past two weeks. We Filipinos proudly watched our very own Michael Martinez as he was the lone athlete representing the Philippines in the Sochi Winter Olympics of 2014.
Martinez made Olympic history because he is the first Filipino and Southeast Asian to qualify for the Men's Figure Skating.
He is among the youngest competitors who competed against the best in the world as he is only 17 years old.
Martinez garnered a final score of 184.25 and finished at 19th place.
On Friday, Feb. 14, Martinez was the third to perform at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the short program. He got a score of 64.81 which put him in first place at the time.
Later on, as the other skaters performed, he gradually slipped down, but he was at seventh place after 12 skaters were finished.
Although he was considered to be an “underdog,” the media appreciated his exuberance and flexibility.
Johnny Weir, who is a former US Olympian and one of the commentators in the event, said that Michael is “definitely a shining star of the future”.
We Filipinos anxiously watched Martinez most specially during his final performance and felt a great sense of pride as Weir continued to say, “the kid (Michael) could be a future Olympic champ”.
I mentioned in a past article that, although we do not have snow in the Philippines, ice skating has grown to become very popular. We have ice rinks in large malls particularly at the SM mega malls situated in big cities across the country.
These huge malls are owned by a Chinese-Filipino named Henry Sy. He is the pioneer in the construction and commercialization of the largest malls in the Philippines.
Michael Martinez grew up in the Muntinlupa area which is located south of Manila. His family frequented the SM Southmall in Las Pinas.
Since he was two months old, he had severe asthmatic bronchitis. So as a child, he could not take up any outdoor sport.
One day, when the family went shopping, he saw people skating at the large rink in the mall. This sparked his interest.
At age eight, his Mom encouraged him to pursue the sport because it helped to improve his health.
Michael underwent training in Lake Forest, California, USA in 2010. Phillip Mills choreographed his short program and Justin Dillon assisted him for the free skating category.
Although he had his own share of ups and downs as an athlete, Michael never ceased to persevere in his dream to become an Olympian.
We Filipinos proudly watched as he was our flagbearer at he opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia.
Our hearts leaped as he did his triple axels, triple double toes and double flips. Michael did a “Biellmann Spin” at the last part of his routine which is considered to be one of the most difficult maneuvers, especially for a male skater.
At one point, he fell after executing a triple loop, but fought to the finish and did a performance to be truly proud of.
Michael Martinez is an inspiration to Filipinos because he dared to battle the world's greatest skaters against all odds. His philosophy in life is to “dream high and work hard”.