CARSON, California - One triple axel jump for Michael Christian Martinez turned out to be one giant leap for Filipinos, as the Philippines' first winter Olympian in over 20 years finished in 19th place.
Despite a 12-hour time difference, Filipinos at iDance Zumba in Carson huddled around their smartphones and tablets and prayed.
They arrived at 7 a.m. local time to see Martinez become the first Filipino and first Southeast Asian to compete in Olympic figure skating.
As one of 30 Olympians in the men’s figure skating competition, Martinez needed to finish in the top 24 to advance into the finals.
Martinez scored 64.81 through a series of jumps and balancing tricks.
Martinez has special roots here at iDance. While the 17-year-old trained in Southern California, the regulars here have somewhat adopted the Muntinlupa native when he first arrived in 2011.
They've helped him raise money amid the alleged lack of financial support from the Philippine government.
"He is our Zumba baby so we’ve been supporting Michael since I read his story in 2011," Nonie Belarmino said.
After Thursday’s performance, Martinez will get his shot at the gold medal on Saturday during the long form and free skate program.
This weekend iDance is holding another fundraising event for Martinez. They’re hoping to get a head start for the 2018 Olympic Games when Martinez will be 21 and more experienced.