By NICK GIONGCO
About nine years ago as he was shopping with his mother Maria Teresa inside one of SM’s massive malls, nine-year-old Michael Christian Martinez took note of a particular group of skaters prancing around, twirling and moving as if the rink was their own playground.
Instantly, Martinez got hooked and asked her mother to list him up in one of the programs.
Fast forward to 2014 and Martinez has come a long way from the fumbling nine-year-old who told the Catholic News Service that he feels he has some sort of “super powers” whenever he is on ice.
On Feb. 13, Martinez will represent the Philippines in the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, a breakthrough in the country’s sporting history since he is the first skater to qualify from the tropical and humid Southeast Asian country that only has two sub-par ice skating rinks and an absence of topnotch training.
Martinez is now in Sochi after SM Prime, the mall developer owned by Henry Sy, shouldered a large chunk of the bills needed to have him compete there.
Rated fifth in the world juniors and 29th in the senior level, Martinez will see action on Feb. 13 with representatives from the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) and Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and members of family backing his every move.
Of course, SM big boss Hans Sy and Philippine skating head Pocholo Veguillas will be on hand as well to witness history.
PSC chairman Richie Garcia said the agency has also extended support to Martinez’s buildup for Sochi, handing about P700,000 to his training.
Garcia will be joined in Sochi by POC secretary general Steve Hontiveros as Martinez attempts to make more heads turn.