Hanyu grabs skate gold; Sochi Games feat earns Martinez MVP bonus
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines’ Michael Christian Martinez, whose rise from an obscure weekend skater at a mall ice rink to an Olympian has captured the imagination of the world, ended his historic campaign in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at 19th place in the men’s figure skating event won by Japanese star Yuzuru Hanyu.
Showing his immense potential, the 17-year-old from Muntinlupa tallied 184.25 points after his performance in the free skate finals before a capacity crowd at the Iceberg Palace.
Martinez is set to receive a $10,000 bonus from the Manny V. Pangilinan Sports Foundation, which also helped fund his Olympic campaign.
Ranked No. 30 in the world heading into the Olympics, Martinez, who was the youngest competitor in the event, already achieved his target of reaching the free skate finals, where only the Top 24 out of the 30 participants qualified.
In the free skate finals, Martinez performed to “Malaguena” by Ernesto Lecuona and received a score of 119.44.
Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic figure skating gold in Sochi on Friday with the teenager also claiming Japan’s first title of the 2014 Winter Games.
The 19-year-old, the youngest champion in 66 years, fell twice during a error-strewn performance but took his first major title ahead of three-time world champion Patrick Chan after the men’s free skating final.
Denis Ten moved up from ninth after the short programme to take a first Olympic figure skating bronze for Kazakhstan.
“Oh my God. The Olympics is so wild and unpredictable,” gasped Hanyu on hearing of his success.
His challenge had looked over after he fell on a quadruple Salchow and a triple flip, but he landed a quadruple toeloop in his free skate to Nino Rota’s “Romeo and Juliet” in front of a capacity crowd at the Iceberg Skating Palace.
“A win’s a win’s a win. It’s going to sink in. This is history. It’s a gift for my country,” said Hanyu, who comes from Sendai which was hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011.
Top sports officials in Manila Saturday recognized Martinez’s feat, saying the skater can still improve if given the proper support.
Philippine Sports Commission chair Richie Garcia lauded Martinez and said: “We have a talented athlete and given more time he can be the best in the world.”
However, the Philippine Skating Union (PSU), governing body of figure skating in the country, lamented that it is only a fringe national sports association that wasn’t included in the PSC list of “priority sports” or even “developing sports.”
The PSU is just an associate member of the Philippine Olympic Committee.
Priority sports like boxing, taekwondo and cycling, get financial support from the PSC ranging from P8 million to P15 million yearly. Developing sports get lesser money, which is at least P1.5 million a year.
POC president Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr., said Martinez competed against athletes who have been playing the sport for so long, and that he will eventually win an Olympic medal for the country.
“If Martinez will continue to be as diligent and is given ample support, I believe the Philippines will have an Olympian capable of winning medals,” added Cojuangco who heads the POC where the PSU is just an associate member. Cedelf P. Tupas, AFP, Mark Anthony Reyes