MANILA, Philippines - Michael Christian Martinez, the country’s lone athlete in the 2014 Winter Olympics, left for the southern Russian city of Sochi yesterday to compete in the figure skating event of the quadrennial meet.
He was accompanied by his mother Maria Teresa Martinez and his coach, Russian Victor Kudryatsev, who has trained generations of Olympic skaters and has trained Martinez for a month in Moscow.
Last week, the Filipino community in Moscow held a send-off mass for Martinez. The officiating priest, Fr. Kirill Gorbunov, SDB, welcomed the young Olympian, commending him as an example of how one can use his God-given talents to the fullest and wishing him the best for the upcoming 22nd Winter Games.
Martinez, 17, finished seventh in the Nebelhorn Tropy in Germany last year to earn a slot and become the first Southeast Asian to compete since the introduction of figure skating into the Winter Olympic Games in 1924.
“I am very proud to be the first ever Filipino figure skater in the Winter Olympics,” posted Martinez on his Facebook page.
Although beaming with honor for this historical feat, the humble teenager is nevertheless conscious of the tough competition he has to face.
“I feel excited and nervous because I will be competing against skaters who are much older and more experienced,” Martinez told The Philippine STAR before his departure. “But I will try my very best to qualify at least until the second round.”
The Olympic figure skating event consists of two different rounds for the singles and pairs competitions – the short program and the free skate program.
Thirty skaters are set to compete in the men’s short program round on Feb. 13, after which only the top 24 skaters of the first round will move on to the ffinal free skate competition on Feb. 14.
Competitors include three-time world champion Patrick Chan of Canada and the Russian skating icon, Evgeny Plushenko. Per results of the International Skating Union, Martinez at present ranks fifth in the world at junior level and 29th at senior Levej.
For his many supporters, however, the Filipino’s miracle entry to the winter games is already a victory.
Martinez will be joined by representatives from the Philippine Olympic Committee. They will march with the Filipino flag next week at the opening ceremony of the 22nd Winter Olympics – after more than two decades of absence from the Games.
“Sochi 2014” opens Feb. 7 (12:14 a.m. Manila time) at the 40,000-seated Fisht Stadium. Although official details of the much-awaited opening event are yet to be disclosed. Reports say that an extravagant show featuring famous Russian stars, ballet and circus artists, a choir of 1,000 singers, and a huge stage featuring 15 buildings, six locomotives and six bridges can be expected.