PH's first Olympic skater rues lack of gov't support

by Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Posted at Nov 05 2013 04:49 PM | Updated as of Nov 06 2013 05:42 PM

Michael Christian Martinez Photo grabbed from Youtube video

LOS ANGELES - After a 22-year absence, the Philippines is going to the Winter Olympics.

After finishing 7th in the Neblehorn Trophy Tournament in Germany last September, Michael Christian Martinez from Muntinlupa will represent the Philippines at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia in February.

"Gulat kasi there's a lot of good skaters competing trying to get to the Olympics. Nagugulat ako talaga naka-pasok ako," Martinez said.

This will be the first time the Philippines has qualified in figure skating and only the 4th time the Philippines entered the Winter Games in its 90-year history. The other appearances were twice in alpine skiing in 1972 and 1992, and the luge in 1988.

"Masayang-masaya dahil naka-tatak na sa Pilipinas, to show the world that Filipinos are really great and we could do good," Martinez said.

Despite the rare appearance and a shot at an Olympic medal, Martinez said they are getting little financial support from the Philippine government.

With no training facilities in the Philippines, the allowance they do receive burns fast as training for figure skating can run up to thousands of dollars per month in the US as the 16-year-old trains in Southern California.

He met with officials of the Los Angeles Philippine consulate, who promised to try to secure more support from Philippine sporting bodies, as well as get Martinez in touch with Filipino community groups to help him in his Olympic quest.

"Yung government po wala kaming support sa atin and only yung family ko po and friends tumutulong and mga nag-fundraising po but we still need a lot of money," Martinez said.

Martinez, who has been skating competitively since age 9 will have one more major tournament in Latvia this weekend, where the so-called "Golden Boy of Philippine Figure Skating" can increase his international rankings before the Winter Olympic games.

After that, he will stay in California and train for Russia where he joins 29 other figure skaters who compete for Olympic glory in February.

While he may be short on funds, Martinez is not short on prayers. He's hoping for one more miracle on the ice that can score an Olympic medal not just for him but for the Philippines.