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Martinez returns a star

By: - Reporter / @jwpayoINQ
/ 12:27 AM February 24, 2014

Martinez waves to well-wishers upon arrival at Naia Sunday. RODELROTONI

MANILA, Philippines—He returned as a star in the mall ice rink where he had gone unnoticed before.

Filipino skating prodigy Michael Christian Martinez drew a packed crowd this time when he returned to Manila  Sunday after a historic run in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia.

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And the support, too, continued to flow as the SM Group, whose skating rinks became Martinez’s early training ground, rewarded the teen skater yesterday with a $10,000 check from SM Foundation.

“Representing the Philippines in the Olympics is a dream come true,” Martinez, the first Southeast Asian figure skater to compete in the Olympics, said in front of a big crowd at SM Mall of Asia following a motorcade from the airport.

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“I’ll be ready in the next Olympics. The experience that I had this Olympics, I learned a lot on what skating skills to improve.”

The 17-year-old Martinez, the first Filipino to represent the country in the Winter Olympics in over two decades, is also set to receive a $10,000 (about P450,000) bonus from the Manny V. Pangilinan Sports Foundation.

On top of the financial reward, SM gave Martinez a Lifetime Skating privilege, which allows him to skate for free in any SM skating rink, a Global Pinoy Card and various gifts from other SM companies.

“SM is really prepared to support him to the next Olympics,” said SM Prime Holdings president Hans Sy. “We’ve been supporting him, but we’ve also assured him that we’re supporting him more to make sure that he continues giving pride to to the country.”

Martinez will leave again by the end of the week for Sofia, Bulgaria, to compete in the World Junior Figure Skating Championships starting Mar. 13.

After the competition, Martinez will head to the United States to train for the Grand Prix of Figure Skating Championship series that kicks off in August.

In his brief return, Martinez will visit where his skating dreams all started as he drops by SM Southmall Monday for a meet-and-greet and a special performance starting at 4 p.m.

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More Filipinos can also get a chance to watch Martinez live Tuesday when he performs at noon in SM Mall of Asia, where he used to train, and in SM Megamall at 4 p.m.

Martinez was the youngest competitor in the Olympic men’s figure skating event where he finished 19th overall, but gained international attention with his inspiring story as the kid from the tropics who only learned to skate in a mall.

Despite leaving for Sochi with hardly any fanfare, Martinez soon captivated many Filipinos when he reached the top 24 after skating to Arthur Fiedler’s “Romeo and Juliet” in the short program.

In the finals free skate won by Japanese star Yuzuru Hanyu, Martinez wound up 19th with a total score of 184.25 in his performance to Ernesto Lecuona’s “Malaguena.”

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TAGS: Figure skating, Michael Martinez, Philippines, SM skating rink, Sochi Olympics, Sports, winter olympis
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