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Joy in the Philippines as figure skater Martinez earns late call for PyeongChang 2018

26 Jan 2018
Manila, Philippines, January 26, 2018: The Philippines was celebrating on Friday when figure skating hero Michael Christian Martinez was given a late call-up to the Winter Olympics in Korea next month. The Sochi 2014 Olympian had missed out on qualifying for PyeongChang 2018 last September but earned a reprieve when Sweden declined their quota place this week.

Martinez was first reserve for the men’s figure skating field – and the International Skating Union immediately reallocated the one unused quota to the Philippines. 

Naturally, the Philippine Skating Union was only too happy to accept, meaning the 21-year-old Martinez will be taking part in his second consecutive Winter Olympics – quite an achievement for someone who began skating at an ice rink in his local shopping mall in Manila to improve his health as a youngster.

“I was pretty shocked,” Martinez told ABS-CBN News. “I rushed to the rink and told my coach. We’re all super happy about it.” Many Filipinos are super happy about it, too; Martinez is currently a trending topic on Philippine Twitter.

Martinez was the Philippines’ only representative in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Before Martinez’s announcement, the country was also only going to have one representative this year — Filipino American skier Asa Miller. The Philippines rarely sends delegates to the Winter Olympics and has only joined the games four times since the 1972 Olympics in Sapporo, Japan.

Martinez became the first skater from South East Asia in the Winter Olympics when he qualified for Sochi, where he finished 19th in the short programme with 64.81 points to qualify for the free skate. He scored 119.44 in the free skate and finished 19th overall with a total score of 184.25 – a fine performance that impressed the figure skating purists around the world.

Since then, among other achievements, he has won the Asian Figure Skating Trophy in Bangkok in 2015 and the silver medal at the South East Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur last August, behind Malaysia’s Julian Yee – who had already qualified for PyeongChang 2018 at the 2017 CS Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany last September.

Martinez finished eighth at the Nebelhorn when only the top seven qualified and thought he would be watching the 2018 Winter Olympics at home on TV – but then came the news that Sweden had relinquished their quota, opening the door for Martinez to compete in Korea next month.
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