With little support from the government, the family of the Philippines’ lone Winter Olympian Michael Christian Martinez resorted to mortgaging their home to send the 17-year-old to Sochi, Russia as the first Filipino Winter Olympian in 22 years.
Martinez, whose mother tells Catholic News Service that she reached out to President Benigno Aquino for financial help without response, also overcame an inflamed knee and his family’s typhoon-ravaged farm to make it to the biggest stage in figure skating.
“My house is mortgaged. It’s a crazy investment,” said Maria Teresa Martinez, the figure skater’s mother. “I don’t even think anyone at the president’s office knows there’s a Filipino skating in the Olympics.”
It’s a gamble, but the teenager from Paranaque, Manila, Philippines is relying on his faith and family’s support to carry him to the promised land.
“Before there was no one to hold on to, only my mom but no one else,” he told Simone Orendain of the Catholic Register. “So I’m holding on to God. Every competition I ask him for help and confidence and it really works!”
Martinez, 17, and a devout Catholic, is vying to become the first Filipino to medal at the Winter Games, having bested international pre-Olympic tournaments to earn an elusive ticket to to Russia.
Martinez began ice skating at the age of 8 as therapy for his debilitating asthma before plunging into competitive skating. One he stepped up to the international level, the same problems surfaced: lack of equipment, coaching, and expenses hobbled Martinez’s family, but it didn’t stop the soon-to-be Olympian from reaching his goals.
Michael’s mother shared to CNS: “I just tell him to prepare and pray, because sometimes really we cannot afford to bring the coach. So I told him just pray.”
With help from sponsor Manny V. Pangilinan and others, Martinez was able to network with coaches in international stints who would help him in his ambition. Most of his training stipends went towards trips to Southern California to prepare for this event.
Martinez will see his first action on the ice on Thursday, February 13 for the men’s short program. The short program, which will air live on TV5 from 11 PM to 3:30 AM, is the qualifying round wherein the top 24 skaters will advance to the free skate program.