Martinez gets rousing welcome from fans
Joey Villar (The Philippine Star) - February 24, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Olympic skater Michael Martinez came home to a grand welcome yesterday after a dramatic 22-day journey in Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Martinez arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on board flight EK 332 from Russia along with his mother, Maria Theresa.

The flight arrived an hour late, but Martinez’s fans patiently waited for their idol and gave him a rousing welcome when he emerged from the tube of the plane.

Martinez, 17, brought honor to the country by being the first skater from the Philippines, a tropical zone, and Southeast Asia to qualify for the Olympics.

He made a remarkable 19th place finish, a big jump from his 30th rank upon qualifying for the Olympics among thousands of aspirants.

From the airport, a brief motorcade organized by the Pasay City government and the SM Mall of Asia management was held for Martinez shortly before 6 p.m.

At the Mall of Asia, fans patiently stood in the glass partition down the ground floor and steel railing up to the second level of the ice skating rink – all hoping to see Olympic figure skater in person.

Shaking off the jetlag, greeted throngs of fans and supporters at the mall.

 

The SM Group later feted Martinez with gifts and surprises.

It was at the mall’s ice skating rinks where the athlete learned his fancy moves, among them his famous rendition of the Biellman spin – a technique that only he executed among all the participants – showcasing his grace and flexibility.

SM Prime Holdings, Inc. president Hans Sy came up with the biggest surprise by awarding Martinez with a $10,000 cheque from SM Foundation, Inc.

Martinez thanked his fans and supporters who he said gave him the strength to pursue his dream. He also took the opportunity to share the accolades he gained with fellow Olympians before him.

"I share this honor to all the Filipino Olympians before me," said Martinez, who was accompanied by mother Maria Teresa, Phl Skating Union chief Pochollo Veguillas, Sy and other sports and local officials during the press conference.

SM also gave Martinez a Lifetime Skating Privilege which allows him to skate for free at any of SM’s skating rinks. Martinez was also presented with a Global Pinoy Card.

SM said it believes in rewarding every hardworking Filipino who has achieved success abroad. The Global Pinoy Centers count Filipino stars such as Martinez and Manny Pacquiao as honorary cardholders and all other hardworking overseas Filipino workers who have sacrificed to make life better for their loved ones and for their country.

Martinez also received various presents from other SM companies such as gift certificates and cash cards from The SM Store, SM Supermarket, China Banking Corp. and a free three-day and two-night accommodation at SM's heritage Taal Vista Hotel.

Today, Martinez’s fans can catch him dazzle on the ice as he gives a special performance at SM Southmall at 4 p.m.

Fans and friends will also have a chance to meet and greet Martinez as he performs tomorrow at the Mall of Asia at 12 noon and at SM Megamall at 4 p.m.

Next stop: Bulgaria

Martinez's sweet homecoming, however, will be cut short because he will soon head to Sofia, Bulgaria where he is set to compete in the prestigious World Junior Figure Skating Championships to be held from March 10-16.

He ranked fifth overall in the same competition last year.

Sy reiterated his continuing support to Martinez.

"We are ready to give more support to him to make sure he gives us more reasons to be proud of in the Olympics," said Sy.

Martinez aims to earn a medal this time following his experience at the Winter Olympics.

From Bulgaria, Martinez will train in the United States for the Grand Prix of Figure Skating Championship series which will start in August.

194 medals, trophies

As a child, Martinez frequented SM Southmall in Las Piñas and later the SM Mall of Asia for figure skating competitions despite frequent bouts of asthma.

From the time he started skating at eight years old, Martinez has garnered 194 medals and trophies from various international and local competitions.

He clinched seventh place at the 2013 Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany that qualified him for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Through the years, SM and the SM-sponsored Philippine Skating Union have conducted several figure skating competitions that have helped mould international champions like Martinez.

The excellence demonstrated by skaters especially during competitions is a mark of quality that the SM Skating Rink can provide with its world-class venue and facilities.

Property conglomerate SM Prime Holdings, Inc. operates skating rinks through SM Lifestyle Entertainment, Inc. at the SM Mega Fashion Hall in Mandaluyong, SM Mall of Asia in Pasay, and SM Southmall in Las Piñas.

Another commendation

Meanwhile, Sen. Grace Poe has also filed a resolution to commend Martinez.

Under Senate Resolution No. 517, Poe hailed Martinez for “raising the Philippine flag in the global sporting event with courage and bringing honor to a tropical nation in a sport hardly known to most Filipinos.”

Apart from Poe, Senate Deputy Minority Leader Vicente Sotto III had filed a resolution to honor Martinez.

The city council of Muntinlupa, Martinez’s hometown, has earlier passed a resolution recognizing his feat.

Apart from the citation, Martinez will also be awarded a P100,000-reward. - With Christina Mendez, Perseus Echeminada

LAS PI MALL OF ASIA MARTINEZ PRIME HOLDINGS SKATING SOUTHMALL SY WINTER OLYMPICS
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