MANILA, Philippines— To have proved that someone from a country where winter is nothing but an idea is an achievement in itself for the Philippines’ lone representative to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
Michael Christian Martinez, the 17-year-old from Muntinlupa City, defied the odds to be the first-ever figure skater to carry the Philippine flag in the Winter Games.
He’s also the first representative of the sport from Southeast Asia, a region where there is only two seasons: rainy and dry.
“I feel proud because there are a lot of people that say that because we’re a tropical country; we can’t do this or we can’t do that,” Martinez told NBCOlympics.com in an interview.
“But what I say to them is that I’ll be the first one to skate in the Olympics. I’m proud of that.”
Martinez’ dreams of making it to the biggest sporting stage in the world, in fact, started in a mere recreational skating rink in a shopping mall in the often-humid Manila.
“I saw skaters doing jumps and spins on the rink at the mall. After the first time I tried it I loved the sport already,” he shared in the same interview.
But that small—not even Olympic sized—rink, which was located beside the busy foodcourt area of the mall, proved to be enough to cultivate Martinez’ gem of a talent. He eventually got better training in the United States starting in 2010.
Martinez, bucking asthma and a surplus of injuries, then started reaping the rewards of his patience and hard work and was eventually gifted a slot in the prestigious Winter Games.
“It feels great that I’m here representing the Philippines at the Olympics,” Martinez said.
“There is a lot of pressure on me because not only am I skating for my country, but for all the hard work I’ve put in the last four years.”
Originally posted: 3:06 pm | Sunday, February 9th, 2014