Michael Christian Martinez

Michael

Photo courtesy of Rappler.com

Watching the Olympics Men’s Figure Skating, I was shocked by what happened to Patrick Chan (Canada). As a Canadian, I was rooting for him and felt that the gold was his to lose and unfortunately he did lose it. As a Filipino, Michael Christian Martinez‘ story of being the first South East Asian to compete in Men’s Figure Skating and first Filipino to represent the Philippines in 22 years at the Olympics is nothing short of inspirational.

How he managed to qualify to the Olympics without any government support or consistent professional training is a miracle. But to qualify for the long program where he beat out more experienced and better trained skaters is a tremendous accomplishment.

The sad thing about human nature is that everyone in the Philippines are now jumping in the Michael Christian Martinez bandwagon. You see the media and the government and all the country are proud of his accomplishment. It’s weird that before the Olympics or even early in the Olympics, no one was paying attention to Michael Martinez. But then when the international press started writing about him, everyone is suddenly going all “Pinoy pride” for Michael.

But where were they during the last 4 years or even the last year when Michael was struggling to finance his training and get to Sochi.

It is known among Olympic athletes that the hardest challenge they encounter in between Olympic periods is how to finance their training. Most athletes are on their own trying to find ways to finance their dream to qualify for the Olympics and for some athletes, in those 4 years they are living in poverty.

I’m sure when Michael arrives in the Philippines, he will be feted as a national hero. I’m sure politicians and media and god knows who would be clamoring for a photo op with him. I’m sure the government and businesses will be tripping over themselves pledging to provide financial support for Michael’s training.

Unfortunately the Olympic afterglow is very fleeting. 4 years is a long time until the next Olympics. It makes one wonder if the support Michael will be getting when he gets back to the Philippines will be enough to tide him over for the next 4 years. The fact of the matter is you need a lot of money to be competitive in figure skating.

After seeing Michael skate, I have no doubt about Michael’s passion and talent for his sport. But the question now becomes, what is next for him? Will he pursue figure skating full time and compete professionally? Or will figure skating be nothing more than an expensive hobby?

I think for the next 4 years, if Michael receives the right training, experience and financial support that equals to what 2014 Olympic gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu and silver medalist Patrick Chan are getting; he may actually have a chance at medalling in the next Olympics. Yes, I think that is a very realistic possibility. I think Michael has the potential. But that is IF he gets the training, experience and financial support.

It would be nice to believe that after this Olympics, Michael will be getting the much needed financial support in order for him to take the next step. But I’m skeptical and cynical to believe that the people who are now clamoring for Michael’s attention will still be there 1 year later or 2 years later or even 3 years later. 

What Michael has accomplished is an inspiration to everyone and the Philippines has every right to be proud of him. But if Michael wants to take the next step and be competitive in his sport and not just be treated as a novelty in the next Olympics, then he has to continue to believe and rely on himself. 

As much as everyone in the Philippines seems to be ready to support him, the only people who he can truly rely on to help him achieve his dreams are himself and those who were there from the very beginning. Michael should remember that the best people he can rely on are those who were there for him when he was still a nobody.

 

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