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Page 16 n THE ASIAN REPORTER
ASIA / PACIFIC
February 17, 2014
Filipino skater makes it from mall to Olympics
By Tim Dahlberg
The Associated Press
AP Photo/Darron Cummings
OCHI, Russia — Michael Christian Martinez
nailed the bow at the end.
Four bows, to be exact, though no one could blame
him. He didn’t seem to want to leave the ice, and no one
was going to blame him for that, either.
This wasn’t the shopping mall in the Philippines, where
he learned his jumps and spins while trying to avoid
parents and their kids skating by on family outings. This
was the Iceberg Skating Palace and this was the
Olympics, where the teenager was desperate for the skate
of his young life.
He had less than three minutes to prove himself in the
short program and make it to the men’s free skate final.
If he didn’t, he might have to be thinking about the next
step, perhaps working for his family raising vegetables to
sell to Japan.
The expenses had become too much. The mall had
contributed some money, but in the aftermath of Typhoon
Haiyan (also known as Typhoon Yolanda) there wasn’t
much the government could do for a figure skater, the
nation’s only competitor in Sochi.
The family home had already been mortgaged to pay for
his skating. There was no more to give.
“We’re hoping he makes it and some companies support
him,” his mother, Maria Teresa Martinez, said.
“Otherwise he will just have to stop. We cannot afford it
anymore. It’s just so expensive and we can’t do another
In a sequined and braided black and white outfit
donated by a designer in New York who saw his Facebook
plea for proper Olympic attire, Martinez took the biggest
stage of his life, skating just two spots before the great
Evgeni Plushenko was supposed to go in front of a capacity
crowd at the Olympic arena.
He acknowledged the polite applause, gliding to the
center of the ice. He paused, struck a pose, and then began
the most important skate of his career.
“I was so nervous,” he said. “This was such a big event.”
PINOY PERSEVERANCE. Michael Christian Martinez of the Philippines competes in the men’s short program figure skating competition at the
Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. On page one, Martinez carries his country’s flag at the opening ceremony of
the Sochi Games. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
He had reason to be. At 17, he is the youngest skater in
the program and the only Filipino figure skater ever in the
Still, Martinez was sure he would prevail. The gangly
kid with the mop of black hair had to, because this has
been his life ever since he walked by the rink in the Manila
mall at the age of nine, saw the skaters, and declared to
his mother that this was something he wanted to do.
He fell on his behind that day, but that didn’t stop him
from coming back the next. Neither did the asthma that
put him in the hospital many times and kept him from
playing sports outdoors.
“I will make the free skate,” he declared after practice
the night before. “Because I am prepared.”
Preparation, though, only counts so much. So on his
Facebook page, Martinez asked his friends to “Please pray
He began his skate by hitting a nice triple axel, drawing
applause from the crowd. But on his second jump he didn’t
finish the rotation on a triple lutz and triple toe loop,
lowering his marks from the judges.
But his spins were good, the rest of the program nicely
skated. Most importantly, he didn’t look like a 17-year-old
making his Olympic debut.
In two minutes and 39 seconds, Martinez showed he
belonged. And now all there was to do was to wait.
“I’m very happy and proud,” he said. “I missed just one
jump but the rest of the program was good.”
In the kiss-and-cry area, Martinez waved his jacket
with “Philippines” on the back to the crowd, drawing
cheers. He sat with the Russian coach that his mother —
who learned skating along with her son so she could save
money by coaching him herself — had hired for him,
flashing a thumbs-up sign as his score was posted.
It was 64.81, his best ever. But Martinez would have to
wait again to find out whether it would be good enough to
be one of the top 24 skaters who make it to the free skate.
“I think so, maybe half and half,” he said. “I’m a little
confident, but then I’m not.”
Nearby, though, some of the other early skaters were
struggling. Some fell trying jumps, others made mistakes
that lowered their scores.
Plushenko himself fell on a triple axel in warm-ups,
hurting his back and ending his bid to add another medal
on home ice to the four he already won.
Suddenly, the math was starting to look good. It wasn’t
official yet, but Martinez had made it in.
“I feel like a real champion,” he said.
For one night at the Olympics, that’s exactly what the
kid from the mall was.
Editor’s note: Martinez earned 119.44 points
in the free skate to finish in 19th place.
GOODWILL AMBASSADOR. Retired soccer star David Beckham
interacts with typhoon survivors during his visit to typhoon-hit Tacloban
city in the central Philippines. Beckham visited the storm-devastated city
as part of UNICEF relief efforts. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Beckham visits typhoon-
devastated Philippine city
By Bullit Marquez
The Associated Press
ACLOBAN, The Philippines — David Beckham
visited the typhoon-devastated Philippine city of
Tacloban this month as part of UNICEF relief
efforts. The central city is still struggling to deal with the
impact of super Typhoon Haiyan (also known as Typhoon
Yolanda) that struck November 8, killing more than 6,200
people and leaving tens of thousands still homeless.
The retired soccer star was welcomed by hundreds of
survivors who have been living outside a stadium in tents
provided by the United Nations.
“I was humbled to visit Tacloban and see how people are
still so full of spirit despite the devastation they have
suffered. Close to 6 million children are affected and many
have lost loved ones,” a UNICEF statement quoted Beck-
ham as saying.
Beckham exchanged high-fives and posed for pictures
with children inside a large white tent used as a class-
room. Some showed him their artwork.
He removed his shoes on entering a tent where a family
is living, stroking a sleeping infant’s hands as he spoke
with family members. Officials and UNICEF staff did not
say what he and the family members talked about during
his 30-minute stay.
It was Beckham’s second trip to the Philippines as a
UNICEF goodwill ambassador. He toured a shelter for
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