The kid from the mall

/ 03:21 PM February 16, 2014

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, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. AP

For roughly a half hour on Friday, Michael Christian Martinez was the top male figure skater at the Sochi Olympics.

He skated early in the finals, earning a score that put him ahead of several other athletes, including another young man from Kazakhstan where it was minus 27 Celsius as the competition was wrapping up.


The top-ranked skaters eventually took over the competition, led by Japan’s Hanyu Yuzuru, who won the gold.

Nobody really expected Martinez to win a medal, and he himself said was quoted in interviews that he’d be happy just to make it to the finals.


And he did that just that, and with so much class that he impressed TV commentators and the international media who celebrate with Filipinos the incredible journey of Southeast Asia’s first Olympic competitor in figure skating.

And one thing also is worth noting: Martinez didn’t finish last as one would expect.

Instead the kid from a hot tropical country out-skated athletes from five countries with snowy and icy winters.

Martinez finished 19th, but who would argue that it was still a triumphant performance?

And we have to thank him for turning Sochi into a memorable Olympics for Filipinos, especially given the country’s recent forgettable summer Olympics .

And we now could also look forward to the upcoming winter events.

Martinez is only 17 which means he will just be 21 in the 2018 winter games in South Korea, and 25 in the 2022 games. (Among the cities vying to host it is Almaty — in Kazakhstan.)


He will still likely be a long shot for a medal. But Martinez could actually end up playing a more important role: he could be the trailblazer in a sport in which Filipinos may actually, eventually shine.

One of the popular headlines last week was on how a young Filipino made the leap from the mall to the Olympics.

Ah, the mall.

They were just a few when I was growing up in 70s. Now, they’re everywhere.

Who would have thought that that noisy, crowded, cheesy bastion of Manila commercialism, could actually play a role in an inspiring Filipino tale?

You can already see the mall owners and their partners dreaming up schemes to cash in on Martinez’s incredible journey, and kids and their parents signing up for lessons and dreaming of Olympic glory.

Well, why not?

Many of us may not understand the techniques and the way figure skating competitions are judged. There’s a special kind of athleticism involved, but one that’s based on performance and showmanship.  In other words, a kind of athleticism familiar to Filipinos: showbiz and theater.

The only thing that has prevented Filipinos from being part of that world was the lack of snow and ice.

Well, the malls are taking care of that problem.

So we can probably expect many more Michael Christian Martinezes coming out of those of noisy, crowded, over-air-conditioned monstrosities where Filipinos typically spend time to hang out or simply take a break from the heat.

And if we’re lucky, it could mean another heartwarming tale of a young Filipino blazing a trail.

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On Twitter @boyingpimentel


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TAGS: Features, figure skating, Global Nation, Michael Martinez, Sochi Olympics, Sports
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