Meet 3 Pinoys competing in Winter Olympics in Sochi

By Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Feb 07 2014 12:16 PM | Updated as of Feb 08 2014 10:06 AM

GLENDALE, California - It may sound ironic, Filipinos with their tropical island roots competing in the coolest of climates at the Winter Olympics.

However, three global Filipinos have earned shots to compete in Sochi, Russia and represent their home countries on the ice.

With America's most decorated winter Olympian Apollo Anton Ohno now retired big expectations are coming from the state of Washington in JR Celski and his Philippine tattooed chest.

Despite some injuries, the Filipino-Polish-American managed to win a pair of bronze medals in 2010 games for speed skating.

"Ever since I was 3, I've been skating competitively and if you can imagine doing that your whole life and preparing for something your whole life and finally coming true for you - I can't even explain the feeling," he said.

Now 23, Celski has qualified for 1,000, 1,500, 500 meter short track races and will also join 4 other American speed skaters in the 5000 meter relay.

Another Filipino, this time from North of the border, is eyeing medal in long track speed skating. Also 23-years old, the son of Filipino immigrants, Gilmore Junio of Calgary is part of Canada's speed skating team, qualifying for Sochi last month.

The buzz from Canada is he's got a good shot at winning a medal in the 500 meter long track race after all, Canada has some of the top speed skaters in the world and he had to beat some of them to get in.

"It's pretty surreal. Growing up, you know, as a Filipino kid in Calgary, I never thought, you know, I'll be going up and going to the Olympics and representing Canada and the Filipino community. It's a great honor and I hope I can do everyone proud," Junio said.
While both Celski and Junio are speed skaters, their blades will likely not cross.

Celski competes on the short track while Junio is on the long track.

While the distances may be the same, the size and shape of the tracks and positioning of the skaters are different.

While the two Filipinos from North America will try to show off their speed, there will be a rare sighting on the figure skating rink.

Michael Christian Martinez of the Philippines skates during a figure skating training session in preparation for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, in Sochi. Photo by Lucy Nicholson, Reuters

For the first time in 20 years, and fourth time in history, the Philippines has qualified for the Winter Olympics.
Michael Christian Martinez, 17, of Muntinlupa, will be the first athlete to represent not just the Philippines, but South East Asia in the history of Olympic figure skating.
While he can be considered an underdog competing against figure skating powerhouses, his historic appearance has become one of the most talked about and inspirational headlines in Sochi.

It had been a long road for Martinez, conquering asthma as a youth at a shopping mall ice rink, he turned his hobby into a sport.

"Masayang-masaya dahil nakatatak na sa Pilipinas na to show the world that Filipinos are really great and we could do good," he said.
Despite being the Philippines' lone winter Olympian since 1992, Asia's Golden Boy of Figure Skating has made the most of his trip to Sochi making friends with local Filipino community in Russia.

The 22nd Winter Games will kick off with the opening ceremony on Friday night but after the glamour and glitz, it's straight to business come Saturday as speed skating competitions begin.

Martinez will have to wait a week for his chance to shine with men's figure skating scheduled for Valentine's Day.