He entered the biggest sporting stage with the modest goal of making it to the top 24 but Michael Martinez, the Philippines’ brave lone Winter Olympian, achieved way more than that.
In two nights, Martinez turned “triple Axel jump” into a household phrase and managed to make the entire nation rally behind him with his gutsy and inspired performances in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
With his routines scheduled near midnight in Manila time, it seemed like every Filipino stayed up to witness him make history on the rink—holding their breaths as he soared through a triple Axel, and crossing their fingers that Martinez won’t spill.
And the 17-year-old Martinez, the youngest among the seasoned competitors, definitely didn’t disappoint as he wound up 19th out of the top 24 at the close of the men’s figure skating competition.
He garnered a score of 64.81 in the short skate where he performed to the tune of “Romeo and Juliet,” then wowed in the free skate routine over the beat of “Malagueña” to earn 119.44 for the total of 184.25.
The 19-year-old Yuzuru Hanyu handed Japan its first-ever gold medal in a record-setting fashion, Canada’s Patrick Chan bagged silver and Kazakhstan’s Denis Ten went home with the bronze medal.
Martinez held the top spot after the first six skaters but gradually slipped down to his final placing.
In fact, it wasn’t just the Filipinos who were enamored with the gangly Martinez, even the foreign media couldn’t help but be drawn to his inspiring story: a kid who started in a mall ice skating rink in the humid Manila who ended up in the medal round in the Olympics.
His story, including the sacrifices he and his family made just to be able to sustain his figure skating dreams, were heard by thousands as it was carried by major news outfits from all over the world.
And getting that sustained financial support for his build-up until the 2018 Winter games doesn’t seem like a far-fetched idea now with the immense promise Martinez showed.
He may not be going home with a shiny medal dangling from his neck, but Martinez gained the attention and respect of the not only the entire nation but also the world.