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Michael Martinez and his mother at the team welcome ceremony
From Manila shopping mall to Olympic Games

02 Feb 2014
Sochi, Russia: When Michael Martinez walked through a shopping mall in Manila and saw some people skating on the ice rink, it proved to be a life-changing moment.So much so that he now finds himself in Sochi, Russia, as the one-man team of the Philippines at the Olympic Winter Games.“I was nine years old at the time,” says Michael, who is now 17 and will be the youngest competitor in the men’s figure skating competition.

“We were in a shopping mall and I saw other skaters jumping and spinning. I wanted to try it.”

He made steady progress, helped by long training spells in the United States, and he finished in seventh place at the first Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria, in 2012.

But it was at Oberstdorf, Germany, last September when he qualified for the Sochi Winter Olympics, and now he is here he says, “It feels like a dream, so magical.”

Not only is he the first athlete from the Philippines to compete in the Winter Olympics since 1992, he will be the first in figure skating.

“I think I have a big responsibility because this will be history for the Philippines and the world,”  says Michael, from Muntinlupa City in Manila. “I feel very happy and proud.”

He also wants to make the Filipino people proud of him, as the nation recovers from the devastating Super Typhon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda) that swept the Visayas region on November 8, leaving 6,000 people dead.

“I was training in the States at the time but it was on every news channel and I was almost crying,” he said. “It was so sad to see and it made me train harder. I want to show the people back home how much I have been training and working hard for them.”

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