Filipino figure skater Michael Christian Martinez was bestowed the honors fit for a revered Olympian Sunday, with a motorcade around Pasay City and press conference at the SM Mall of Asia.
The teener who placed 19th overall in Men’s Figure Skating in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia faced the media, his colleagues, supporters and fans fresh from his 30-hour journey from the Games location.
He was given a Lifetime Skating Privilege in all SM Skating Rinks and SM Prime Holdings Inc. president Hans Sy, also the first Philippine Skating Union (PSU) president, handed the athlete a US$10,000 check as bonus for his stellar and historic performance in the Games.
Sy pledged further for continued and even stronger support for Michael’s bid in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics in Korea.
“He is a shining example to the youth as someone who saw no limits to what he can achieve. He has already inspired millions by following his dream and by competing in the Winter Olympics,” said the SM Prime Holdings president.
Pasay City Mayor Tony Calixto likewise acknowledged Michael’s contribution to Philippine sports by giving him the symbolic key to the city, as MOA, where Michael does his practice, is located in Pasay.
Business tycoon Manny Pangilinan of TV5, Smart Communications and PLDT pledged a US$10,000 bonus for Michael soon after the figure skating sensation finished his short program routine. TV5 was the exclusive broadcaster of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
In his speech, Michael said that he was sharing the honors to all Filipino Olympians before him.
“I’m not the first to represent the country in the world stage. So please don’t forget other athlete heroes. I share this moment with them,” he told the crowd and the media at MOA.
Although he is the first figure skater from the Philippines and Southeast Asia, the Philippines had entered the Winter Olympics thrice before.
Martinez qualified for the 2014 Winter Olympics when he finished 7th in the Men’s Singles in the 2013 Nebelhorn Trophy held in Oberstdorf, Germany in September last year.
As to the issue of lack of support from the government, PSU president and Michael’s mentor Mr. Pocholo Veguillas clarified that the Philippine Sports Commission thru the Philippine Olympic Committee actually shouldered the US$7,200 training fund of Michael in Russia. He also said that SM is shouldering their protégé’s expenses as the budget from the national government could be used to fund other athletes’ needs.
And the mortgage issue that somehow became a controversy?
His mother, Mrs. Maria Theresa Martinez, was supposed to answer a mediaman’s query, but was motioned by Mr. Veguillas and Mr. Sy there was no need for her to say anything about it. It’s actually immaterial, as any parent would do the same to be with her beloved son in his Olympic debut. The support SM had been extending, though, or the government for that matter, is only for the athlete and not his entire family. And that is quite understood.
The good thing is, with Michael’s inspiring performance, bonuses and gratuities are now coming from all directions.
On Monday, Michael was also honored by the Muntinlupa City government with Mayor Jaime Fresnedi handing him a check of P100,000 bonus in recognition for the pride and honor he brought to the country and the city. Michael also visited the school where he finished elementary and high school.
Later that day he skated at SM Southmall, the place where he started his career nine years ago, to the delight of his fans and mall-goers.
At the Meet & Greet event, the screams and shouts every time he waved, smiled or spoke to the crowd only proved that he’s now the newest superstar, be it in sports or television.
Aside from the numerous guestings on TV, the ice prince is also to receive a special honor during Game 6 of the PLDT Home DSL PBA Cup Finals (between San Mig and Rain Or Shine) aired live on TV5.
Men’s Figure Skating champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan is said to train further in Canada and one question was if Michael would follow suit to solidify his chances in the next Olympics.
He said that he’s staying put with his trainer, Russian 1998 Olympic champion Ilia Kulik, as they’ve been working together for so long and he’s confident with him. In fact, they have started training for quadruple axel in preparation for his bid in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics in Korea.
Asked about what was running through his mind when he fell during his free skate routine, he said that he can’t allow a second fall as he was fighting for his mom, himself and his country.
He also said that he’s so happy and could hardly believe he met and was actually competing along with his idol, Patrick Chan of Canada, who placed second to Hanyu.
Michael will soon go back to the US to train for the World Junior Figure Skating Championships 2014 in Sofia, Bulgaria, happening on March 10-16.
Related stories: Filipinos proud of Michael Christian Martinez’s 2014 Olympics feat; Japanese wins Men’s Figure Skating gold https://arloc888.wordpress.com/2014/02/15/filipinos-proud-of-michael-christian-martinezs-2014-winter-olympics-feat-japanese-wins-mens-figure-skating-gold/ and Michael Christian Martinez banners Philippines in 2014 Winter Olympics https://arloc888.wordpress.com/2013/12/01/michael-christian-martinez-banners-philippines-in-2014-winter-olympics/