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Martinez raises degree of difficulty

Christian Michael Martinez during the SEA Games | Pool Photo

MANILA, Philippines — Southeast Asia’s first and only Winter Olympic figure skater Michael Martinez said the other day he took a huge risk in introducing his new routine with fresh choreography at the recent SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur and while the performance didn’t merit the gold medal, it was a significant upgrade in terms of degree of difficulty to prepare for the future.

Martinez, 20, settled for the SEA Games silver behind Malaysian archrival Julian Yee while another Filipino contender Jules Alpe finished sixth in the field of nine. Fil-Swiss Alisson Perticheto bagged a bronze in the women’s division.

Martinez revamped his entire routine with choreographer Phillip Mills reworking it to the music of “O Futura” from German composer Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” in the short program and a blend of electric violinist Vanessa Mae’s “Tango de los Exilados” and “El Tango de Roxanne” from “Moulin Rouge” in freeskate. Mills, who is based in Lake Forest, California, has worked with skaters in 23 World Championships and five Olympics.

“No excuses,” said Martinez. “I went to K. L. for the gold but I knew it would be a challenge. First, I worked on my routine for only a month when it usually takes two to three months to perfect a performance with new music. Second, I wanted to try something different with a higher degree of difficulty. It was high risk but I thought it would be a good preparation for the coming Olympic qualifier. So in freeskate, I landed my first-ever quad toe loop. Julian performed the same program of 1 1/2 years ago. If I used my program of 1 1/2 years ago, it could’ve been a different outcome. And third, I had just flown in from Los Angeles so there was little time to acclimatize.”

Martinez had a two-day delay on his flight to K. L. The original schedule was to fly straight from L. A. to K. L. “The plane developed engine trouble so the passengers had to get off,” he said. “Direct flights to K. L. aren’t everyday so I had to take another flight that took me to Tokyo for an overnight stay before landing in K. L. I got in at night and the next day, it was the competition.”

In the short program, Martinez took a surprise tumble. “That never happened to me before,” he said. “It was my entry for a spin and my skate slipped. I think there was damage at the edge of my skate. Before the freeskate the next day, my coach (Slava Zahorodnyuk of Ukraine) sharpened the edge of my skate. I wanted to make sure my skates were okay for the quad toe.”

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Martinez said changing his routine was difficult but had to be done. His previous music was Vanessa Mae’s “Emerald Tiger” in the short program and “Nella Fantasia” by singer Russell Watson in freeskate. Russian Nikolai Morozov arranged the choreography. “It was time for a change,” he said. “I wasn’t with the old program anymore spiritually. I lost the energy and heart to do it. I don’t know if I got tired of it or bored with it. But Phillip’s new choreography was wonderful. It opened up my heart again. I’ve always loved ‘Carmina Burana’ and I had suggested it to my previous choreographer but was told it wasn’t for me. Then, I found out the same choreographer used the music with other skaters.”

Martinez called his new program “my best ever.” “The K. L. fans came up to me after the event, saying they cheered for Julian because he’s from Malaysia but they love me more,” he said. “Slava was proud of what I did. I risked doing a quad. When I landed it, I was a bit wobbly. It was my first jump in freeskate. Some skaters don’t do a quad on their first jump because they’re so focused on it that it affects the rest of the routine. I did my first triple axel in 2012 and now, it’s a standard thing. I was so nervous doing the quad. Although I wobbled after landing, I never went down. The sport has become very competitive so if you don’t raise the level of difficulty in your routine, you’ll get left behind. Jump-wise, I think my new program is amazing. I’ll work harder to perfect it.”

Martinez arrived in Manila last Tuesday and left for L. A. yesterday. He’s bound for Oberstdorf, Germany, to compete in the Nebelhorn Trophy on Sept. 27-30.

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