Story by Olivia Ouyang.
After one of the strangest men’s short programs in the history of the Olympics, Michael Christian Martinez, finds himself in 19th place, thus fulfilling his goal to qualify for the men’s free skate. Martinez is the only athlete from the Philippines to compete at these Games as well as the first figure skater to represent a Southeast Asian country in the event. Only seventeen years of age, Martinez is the youngest men’s competitor. However, he is also one of the most hardworking.
Born in Paranaque City, Martinez skated for the first time at the age of eight when he went to a shopping mall in Manila. He essentially taught himself how to skate through watching videos and mastered his first few triple jumps all on his own. In 2010, he started making trips to Los Angeles to train with esteemed coaches John Nicks and Ilia Kulik. A month before this Olympics, he headed to Moscow to train with Viktor Kudriyavstev. In Sochi, Martinez was the very first skater to step foot in the practice rink.
Despite his visible potential, Martinez has questioned whether he should continue skating. Last year, his family’s farm in Luzon was devastated by the typhoons that hit the region. Had he not qualified for the Olympics at the 2013 Nebelhorn Trophy, Martinez would have quit skating. Now, he is hoping to garner enough support to continue to train for the 2018 Olympics in South Korea. In order to raise funds for this Olympics, Martinez’s family mortgaged their home. His friends and skating club have also been supportive, helping to pay for his training trips to Los Angeles. Because of the lack of facilities (Martinez still practices on public sessions) and coaching expertise in the Philippines, these trips are necessary for Martinez’s development as a skater. With a good showing in Sochi, he is hoping to garner more support from the government.
Martinez started off his Olympic debut strong. Choreographed by Phillip Mills, Martinez’s short program to Romeo and Juliet exemplified his potential to be a threat in the sport. He skated an almost clean program, just botching his triple-triple jump combination. However, he has a knack for spins and a natural musicality that cannot be taught. Before Martinez finished his short program, the crowd was already cheering.
Having skated in the first warm-up group, Martinez had a long wait to find out whether or not he had made it to the long program. That wait was filled with a number of high, low, and strange moments. Four-time Olympic medalist and gold medal contender Yevgeny Plushenko from Russia withdrew after aggravating an injury in warm-up. U.S. Champion Jeremy Abbott came down hard on a quad toe attempt, slamming into the boards and requiring a substantial amount of time to recover. On the other hand, Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan became the first skater to ever break the 100-point mark in the short program, garnering a 101.45 for his clean skate.
The men’s free skate promises to be an exciting event. While the battle for gold will most likely be between Hanyu and Patrick Chan of Canada, only 3.5 points separates third and eleventh place currently. In that mix are Jason Brown from the U.S., Han Yan from China, Denis Ten from Kazakhstan, and two Japanese skaters, Daisuke Takahashi and Tatsuki Machida.