Winter Olympics: Pinoy figure skater Michael Martinez bows out in preliminaries

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 16 2018 01:17 PM | Updated as of Feb 16 2018 02:21 PM

Michael Christian Martinez of Philippines performs. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

(UPDATED) Filipino figure skater Michael Martinez failed to reach the top 24 in the preliminary phase of the men's figure skating competition at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea on Friday.

Despite delivering a graceful performance, the two-time Olympian fell to 28th place, registering a component score of 29.52 and a technical score of 26.04 for a total of 55.56 points.

Martinez, who glided over the ice to the tune of "Emerald Tiger" by Vanessa Mae, was the sixth performer in the qualifying round.

Martinez was eliminated with three more skaters due to perform.

There are 30 entries in the qualifying short program, and those who made the quota will advance to the free-skate medal round on Saturday.

Julian Yee of Malaysia, who beat out Martinez for the gold medal in last year's Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, registered 73.58. He also missed the cut.

In a text message to ABS-CBN News, Tom Carrasco, chef de mission of Team Philippines at the Games, said: "Michael did his best given his condition and circumstances. According to coach Slava (Zagor), 'not a bad performance.'"

Topping the short program was defending Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan with 111.68 points. He was followed by Spain's Javier Fernandez (107.58) and compatriot Shoma Uno (104.17).

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Unlike his rivals, Martinez didn't have the benefit of a prolonged preparation heading into the tournament.

He had other plans for February after narrowly missing the cut for the Olympics at a qualifier last year. In fact, he'd hung up his skates for good and turned to body building instead.

"I was seventh out of six of us supposed to be going," he told reporters after his short skate on Friday. "I was like, you know what, it's time to put up my skates and I'm retired and everything. So I didn't skate at all."

Then, on January 23, the call came - a place had opened up since Swedish skater Alexander Mojorov's national committee had returned his spot.

"They told me Michael, you're going. I was like, no way," he said, and hastily resumed training as hard as he could.

"I honestly don't know how I was able to do it and get all my jumps back. For every skater that you ask, if they weren't able to skate for that long, they usually take two to three months to get the jumps back," he added.

"But I was able to do everything - you know, not the best, not the same as before."

He also began crash dieting, since he'd bulked up to 75 kilograms (165 lbs) from his usual skating weight of 66 kg because of his body building.

"When I got back on the ice it was so different, because it's like different muscles, completely different. I had to lose my muscle, I had to lose my weight," he said. "I did not eat."

Seven kilograms lighter, he arrived in Pyeongchang for his second Olympic games after Sochi in 2014.

It had been a hard struggle to get that far in a country where the yearly annual temperature averages 27 degrees Celsius and rinks are few and far between.

In fact, Martinez did not start skating until the age of eight - at a shopping mall rink. Even when he began skating seriously one rink he used had a large pole in the center that meant "you were just skating around and around. It was very difficult."

He said he was satisfied with his skate, in which he cleanly landed a triple Axel and several other triples.

Even more important to Martinez is how skating has advanced in his country since he went to Sochi, with hockey teams and speed skating gaining ground. There are now four Olympic-sized rinks.

"People were saying you're from the Philippines, it's a tropical country," he said. "I said you know what, it doesn't matter. So when I did Sochi I was able to open the door and open their eyes."

Martinez is not the only Southeast Asian competing in figure skating this year, having been joined by Julian Zhi Je Yee of Malaysia.

"I'm really happy about this," he said. "That a lot of Southeast Asians are working hard and able to be at the Olympics."

He entered the Pyeongchang Games ranked No. 44 in the world.

In the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Martinez made the final-24 cut and placed 20th in the free-skate phase. --With reports from Reuters

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