Michael Christian Martinez. File Photo.
MANILA, Philippines – Filipino Olympian Michael Christian Martinez was feted by the governments of Pasay City and Muntinlupa City, and received several gifts from SM, upon his return to the country from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
The 17-year-old Martinez made history when he became the first Southeast Asian to compete in the figure skating event in the Winter Games, eventually placing 19th out of 30 competitors in Sochi.
He was treated like a superstar in his return to Manila on Sunday, as he was cheered by fans during a motorcade on his way to the SM Mall of Asia ice skating rink.
SM Foundation led the way in honoring Martinez, granting the skater $10,000 along with a lifetime skating privilege in all SM skating rinks. He was also made an honorary member of Global Pinoy.
“We are very proud of Michael. He is a shining example to the youth as someone who saw no limits to what he can achieve,” SM Prime Holdings president Hans Sy said in a statement.
Martinez’s path to figure skating glory famously began when he asked his mother, Teresa, to let him try the sport at the ice skating rink in SM Southmall in Las Pinas.
“SM has been home to me ever since I was eight years old,” said Martinez.
Pasay City Mayor Anthony Calixto also gave Martinez a symbolic key to the city.
On Monday, Martinez returned to his hometown of Muntinlupa, where he was honored by the city government as the country’s lone representative to the Winter Games.
Muntinlupa Mayor Jaime Fresnedi also gave a check of P100,000 as a gift to Martinez, who also held a motorcade around the city.
In a short speech at the Mall of Asia on Sunday, Martinez expressed his gratitude for the honors and gifts that are coming his way, but also reminded Filipino officials and his new legion of fans that he was not the only athlete to bring glory to the Philippines.
“I’m not the first to represent our country in the world stage,” he said. “I’m extremely happy with the hero’s welcome, but let us not forget all our other heroes.”
“I therefore share this honor with all Filipino athletes,” Martinez said.
Martinez will perform at the SM Southmall at 4 p.m. on Monday, and at the SM Mall of Asia at noon on Tuesday. He will finish his meet-and-greet tour with another performance at the SM Megamall skating rink at p.m. on Tuesday.