It seems that the spotlight is on Michael Christian Martinez these days as I see my Facebook News Feed filled with snippets of stories about him. Rightly so, as he is the Philippines’ one and only representative to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. In fact, I listed him as one good reason to watch the Olympics on my other blogpost. He is set to compete on February 13 against 29 other figure skaters to be part of the finals happening the next day, February 14. Does he have what it takes?
To reach the finals, Michael Christian Martinez needs to be a part of the top 24 competitors in his category. He was interviewed in October 2013 by Jannelle So in Kababayan Today, a daily show that talks about Filipino American issues, personalities and news that caters to the interest of the Los Angeles Filipino community. During the interview, the 17-year old figure skater admits the challenges he has encountered as he entered the final two months of preparation for the games. Although he is obviously capable, being ranked 5th worldwide in the Junior category and 24th overall (Junior and Senior level combined), he has to train really hard.
In the US, a veteran figure skater trains 4-6 hours daily. But due to lack of funds, Martinez is only able to train for 4 hours. The young Olympian shares during the interview that he did not receive any support from the Philippine government. This is really sad because he could be our first Olympic Gold medalist. At this stage, even when he hasn’t competed yet, he has already brought pride to the Philippines. In 2008, he won 2 gold medals for the Asian Junior Challenge held in HongKong and China. In 2009, he also brought home 2 medals when he competed in HongKong and Thailand, also for the Asian Junior Challenge. He qualified for Sochi 2014 when he participated at the 2013 Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany where he landed 7th.
Michael Christian Martinez deserved to be supported. SM believed so, becoming one of his biggest supporter donating worth Php1 Million in sponsorship. The money covers his training and other Olympic-related expenses and the amount is a big help. In the interview with Jannelle So, the young figure skater shared that they had to hire several coaches for his training. These professional coaches train him on the different aspects of figure skating which includes the jumps, steps, choreography, spins, among others to achieve a good score during the competition. One of the coaches actually charges $100, and this on top of renting skating rinks daily which costs anywhere between $10 – $16 per hour. Of course, his ice skating shoes needs to be on top shape to be able to train well. The boots alone costs $1,000 and the blades is priced between $300 to $400 or more. Each pair only lasts 3 months as they eventually break due to rigid training.
With all the expenses, it can really put a dent on anybody’s finances. Michael Christian Martinez’ main supporter, his mother Teresa, who accompanies him in his training and competitions overseas knows it all too well how much it costs to pursue the Olympic gold. “It will cost you half-a-million pesos per competition. You also pay for the airfare and hotel of the coach who charges $400 a day,” Teresa reportedly said, pointing out that her son has already competed five times in 2013. It’s no surprise that the Martinez’ family had to mortgage their home. When I learned about this, I was actually saddened but at the same time felt proud for the boy who started it out in SM Southmall in Las Piñas where spent his formative years as a figure skater.
With such commitment and determination, I believe Michael Christian Martinez has a big shot in making it to the finals and even winning the Olympic gold. This will be the Philippines’ first, if ever that happens. And I wish for that to happen, first for Martinez and his family, who made personal sacrifices along the way. And second only for the country.