Pinoy all set for Sochi Games debut
By: Alma J. Buelva and Nick Giongco (Manila Bulletin)

Michael Christian Martinez, will try to do what no other Filipino has accomplished: Win a medal in a Winter Olympic Games currently underway in Sochi, Russia.

Martinez, 17, is the lone full-blooded Filipino competing in the Games (there are a few Fil-Americans) and his journey to reach this far was a trek that took nine years or about the time when at age 8 he chanced upon children skating at an SM ice rink.

Michael Christian Martinez, the lone Filipino competing in the Sochi Winter Olympics, carries the Philippine flag during the opening ceremony last Feb. 7.
Looking at them, he immediately realized that this was what he wanted to do. He asked his mother to enlist him on the program and thus began the process that earned him a trip to Sochi.

Martinez will be one of the hopefuls in figure skating, one of the most popular events in the Games.

He will begin his quest for glory on Thursday, where he will be among many seeking a place in the top 24 who then will join the final free skate program on Friday.

Martinez will perform a cut from the 1968 film soundtrack of Romeo and Juliet composed and conducted by Nino Rota.

Last September, Martinez performed to Lucia Micarelli’s Nocturne/Bohemian Rhapsody at the 45th Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany. His number was a hit on YouTube.

Being from a country that has no winter season to speak of or even a speck of snow, Martinez has attracted attention. He is number four in the Sochi Games official website for most number of supporters.

Martinez has come a long way from the fumbling nine-year-old who told the Catholic News Service that he feels he has some sort of “super powers” whenever he is on ice.

His trip to Sochi, however, has not been as smooth as the figures he cuts on ice.

His family reportedly had to mortgage their house in order for him to have the training he needed for the Olympic campaign.

A few ardent supporters have also come forward to help him achieve his dream. One of them is Hans Sy of SM Prime whose ice rinks at some selected malls gave the young Martinez the venue to sharpen his skate blades.

Another supporter is the Philippine Sports Commssion under chairman Richie Garcia which gave $7,200 last December for the campaign.

Sy and Philippine skating head Pocholo Veguillas are in Sochi to watch Martinez perform.

To prepare for the Games, Martinez has been in and out of the country training and competing in such locales as Lake Placid (New York), Innsbruck (Austria), Zagreb (Croatia), Oberstdorf (Germany), Riga (Latvia), Bratislava (Slovakia), Tallinn (Estonia), Belgrade (Serbia) and Brasov (Romania).

According to the International Skating Union, Martinez, who grew up in Parañaque, is the first Filipino to pull off a triple axel, one of the most difficult moves in the sport.

As his mother tells it, ice skating also saved his son from a life of being an asthmatic. In the early years of his training, Martinez had to take asthma maintenance medicine to fight the cold from the hours of training on the rink.