MICHAEL Christian Martinez may not have brought home an Olympic medal from Sochi, but the Philippines’ lone bet certainly won a lot of hearts.
Performing for the public for the first time since he placed 19th overall in men’s figure skating during the Winter Games, the 17-year old phenom returned for a special performance in the skating rink of the SM Southmall in Las Pinas City, the place where he began his dreams to become a professional figure skater in 2004.
The three-minute program, to the sound of Lucia Micarelli’s Nocturne Into Bohemian Rhapsody, drew cheers and applause from the hundreds of people who crowded the viewing gallery to catch a glimpse of the country’s newest sports celebrity who arrived last Sunday afternoon.
Martinez did the triple axel, the double lutz which viewers worldwide saw.
During his routine, Martinez displayed the form and flexibility that allowed him to compete with the world's best men figure skaters, which saw him place in the Top 20 in his Olympic debut and earn him the respect of astounded competitors who were surprised to learn he came from a tropical country.
Video monitors displayed a younger version of the now-famous figure skater when he was still competing in mall tournaments, his neck wrapped in several medals. Since he began skating at eight years old, Martinez has garnered 194 medals and trophies from various international and local competitions. His seventhth place finish at the 2013 Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany qualified him for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Several admirers displayed handwritten posters with messages such as “You brought joy and hope to all Filipinos around the world!” and “Thank you Michael!” Many waved Philippine flags while Martinez did his routine.
“I just believed in myself and I just prayed to God… I dreamt high. Give all to God and do your best,” said the 17-year old Muntinlupa native who seemed awed by his sudden celebrity status.
Martinez added he would like to go back to help train the other Filipino figure skaters, particularly on how to do their jumps properly.
SM later gave Martinez a “Notable Global Pinoy” award for his achievements.
After the program, Martinez was mobbed by cheering fans and supporters when he proceeded to a stage where he signed autographs and posed for photos with the first 20 people who bought tickets to the ice skating rink.
Both male and female fans would scream hysterically every time Martinez would talk or wave to the crowd. Several fans rushed the stage soon as they learned the Olympian was about to leave.
He is also set to perform for the public at the SM Mall of Asia and SM Megamall on Tuesday afternoon.
Martinez will soon be leaving the country once more to participate in the Junior World Figure Skating Championship in Sofia, Bulgaria this March.