Michael Christian Martinez of the Philippines reacts in the "kiss and cry" area after his figure skating men's free skating program at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. Photo by Lucy Nicholson, Reuters
SOCHI, Russia -- At the age of just 17 Michael Christian Martinez is the first Filipino to compete as a figure skater at the Olympics and although he came 20th in the competition that ended on Friday, he has come a long way in a short time from a humble start to be his country's flag bearer and sole representative in Russia.
"At first me and my mom went to a shopping mall and I saw the skaters doing jumps and spins and I asked my mum to try it and she told me that I should try it," said Martinez.
"Then, when I first went to the ice, I started to love the sport already and for three years we were in the Philippines, just recreational competitions, like in Asia, in U.S. just for recreational competition and one coach approached us and told me that I have a potential, that I should train in the United States and that I should learn the needed rules and I should see the top level skaters," Martinez told Reuters in Sochi on Saturday.
Since taking up the sport Martinez, who was born with asthma, has suffered a cut thigh, torn ankle and knee ligaments and a fractured ankle.
"It takes a lot of time, effort and money and your physical energy. For me, it took a lot of injuries for me to come here because we had to do all the hard jumps and do and do a lot of choreography," said the 17-year-old.
Finances were a problem initially, but lately the situation has improved for Martinez.
"Before, we don't have any sponsors, so me, my mom is the one who's paying for all of my expenses. So, but recently we just got, received money from the government, Philippine Olympic Committee, Philippine Sports Commission and the mall owner from the Philippines."
The skater said he was delighted to have been able to compete in Sochi.
"I feel really happy to be with them, it feels like I'm already a champion and yeah, skating here with them and competing here with them, it feels really great, so -- and then I'm skating with the veterans and the top world skaters, so yeah, it feels really different," said the Filipino.
As for his competitors, Martinez said they were very nice.
"Surprisingly they are very so kind and yeah, they actually approached me that they congratulate me that I am the very first Filipino to compete here in the Olympic Games in figure skating, so they are so kind," he told Reuters.
Now the Filipino is setting his sights on South Korea in 2018.
"Yeah if you get more financial support, then I can continue to the next Winter Olympic Games, so I'm aiming for the next Olympic Games," he said, acknowledging that it will take a lot more hard work.