Filipino skater lives Olympic dream | Inquirer Sports

Filipino skater lives Olympic dream

By: - Reporter / @cedelfptINQ
/ 06:15 AM February 12, 2014

WORLD STAGE. Michael Christian Martinez carries the Philippine flag as he leads his team during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia on Friday, Feb. 7, 2014. AP PHOTO/MARK HUMPHREY

MANILA, Philippines—From weekend skating sessions at the mall to the sport’s grandest stage.

That’s the path taken by a once asthma-stricken boy who defied odds and made do with minimal government support to achieve his dream of representing the country in the Winter Olympics.

When 17-year-old Michael Christian Martinez competes on Thursday in the men’s figure skating competition of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, he will become the first Filipino to see action in the Games in 22 years.

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Plenty of milestones

Martinez has chalked up plenty of milestones for just being in Sochi: He is the first Filipino figure skater to compete in the Games and also the first Southeast Asian to see action in that event.

But the road to the Olympics and transforming Martinez into a world-class talent entailed plenty of sacrifices—and resources, from his family and kind-hearted sponsors.

“There is a lot of pressure on me because not only am I skating for my country but for all the hard work I have put in the past four years,” Martinez told American news website NBC in Sochi.

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Martinez opens his campaign on Thursday in the men’s short program, which will be aired live on TV5 starting 11 p.m. Currently ranked No. 30 in the world, Martinez is hoping to become one of the 24 to qualify to the free skate event, a modest target he has set for himself.

Martinez will be rubbing elbows with his idols such as three-time world champion Patrick Chan of Canada.

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He will also compete against veterans like 2010 Olympic bronze medalist Daisuke Takahashi of Japan, European titlist Lorent Amodio of France and US champion Max Aaron.

Ranked fifth in the world in the junior division, Martinez clinched a ticket to Sochi with a seventh-place finish in the Neblehorn Trophy Tournament in Germany in September last year.

High cost of training

Due to the high cost of training, the assistance from the Philippine Olympic Committee, Philippine Sports Commission and SM had been used up, according to Martinez’s mother Maria Teresa.

And because of funding problems, Martinez could only start training on Dec. 30 last year at Novogorsk Training Center under Russian coach Victor Kudryavtsev, who used to coach Martinez’s technical mentor, 1988 Olympic champ Ilia Kulik.

“I feel proud because there are many people who say that we are a tropical country and we can’t do this,” Martinez said in the NBC interview. “It feels great that I’m representing the Philippines here.”

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A Filipino in Sochi

TAGS: Michael Christian Martinez, Philippines, Sochi Olympics, Sochi Winter Olympics

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