Martinez ends ISU season on high note
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - April 16, 2016 - 10:00am

Olympic figure skater Michael Martinez finished the season with an impressive showing at the recent World Championships in Boston, placing 19th of 30 to improve his standing from 21st last year as he worked for the first time with new coach Igor Samohin.

Martinez, 19, planned to execute a quad jump in Boston but decided to defer it for next season. Samohin, a Master’s degree holder from the Academy of Sport in Moscow, competed with the Russian national junior team for four years and coached the Israel national team in 1996 and the US national junior team in 2003. His son Daniel, 18, topped the World Juniors Championships this year and has landed two quad jumps in the short program, three in freeskate and five in a single competition. If there’s a coach who can guide Martinez in executing the quad, it’s Samohin.

In Boston, Martinez had a shaky start and barely made the 24-man cut for freeskate. He scored 66.98 points in the short program to finish No. 23. But in freeskate, Martinez vaulted to No. 18 with 137.12 points and wound up No. 19 overall with 204.1 points, ending ahead of skaters from France, United Kingdom, Ukraine, Germany, China, Canada and Spain. Last year, he registered a total of 192.38 points on 67.03 in the short program and 125.35 in freeskate. Martinez’ improvement in total points and final standing was significant.

But Martinez’ mother Teresa, who was in Boston, said his performance rated only a six in her book. “Michael’s performance was not his best,” she said. “He planned to do a quad jump in the program but it was not very consistent during the final practices before heading to Boston. Coach Igor and Michael decided to remove it so they had to rearrange the choreography of his routine at the last minute. It was his first time with coach Igor and he was not yet 100 percent comfortable with the quad.”

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Martinez’ showing dropped his International Skating Union world ranking from No. 26 to No. 27. To make it to the top 30, however, was an accomplishment. This season, he posted a career-high 220.36 points at the Audi Cup of China where he finished sixth. That was the same competition where he registered a career-high 148.12 points in freeskate.

Martinez’ mother said the pressure in Boston was nerve-wracking, causing several top-caliber skaters to perform below par. “China’s Han Yan, a bronze medalist at the last two Four Continents Championships, failed to qualify for freeskate,” she said. “He made a mistake in his quad jump in the short program then the rest of his routine was affected. Han had been doing quads the last few years. It’s why coach Igor decided to remove the quad since he hasn’t done it perfectly yet. If Michael tried it and wasn’t successful, it would’ve affected the rest of his program because of the pressure a skater feels with the quad, particularly when it’s your first time to do it like Michael. Another skater who failed to make it to freeskate was Nam Nguyen of Canada, the 2014 World Juniors champion and medalist in many ISU competitions.

“There is a ton of pressure at the World Championships and it affects many skaters. Maxim Kovtum, Russia’s 2016 national champion and European medalist, was 18th overall, only one above Michael. Patrick Chan of Canada, a three-time world champion, was only in fifth place and even the Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan fell in his jumps in freeskate.”

Martinez was impressive in his perfect execution. He never fell and avoided a single deduction. “He tried his best not to fall so he wouldn’t get maximum deductions,” said his mother. “He did only triple axels and his second triple axel was one in the second half of freeskate with a difficult entry, the matrix, where he received a 10 percent bonus point.”

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Martinez was confident of surviving the cut for freeskate even if he finished No. 23 out of 24 qualifiers. “He did the regular short program of the season with the planned quad jump,” said his mother. “He didn’t fall this time, thus improving to 18th in freeskate. Michael fell in his jump in last year’s World Championships. The crowd seemed to enjoy his performance as he finished to a big round of applause.”

Martinez was scheduled to compete at the Gardena Spring Trophy in Neumarkt, South Tyrol in northern Italy on April 14-17 but withdrew because of terrorist threats in Europe. It would’ve been his last competition of the season. He has now ended the campaign with seven performances, placing 1st at the Asian Open, 9th at the Finlandia Trophy, 6th at the Audi Cup of China, 4th at the Warsaw Cup, 7th at the Golden Spin of Zagreb, 9th at the Four Continents Cup and 19th at the World Championships.

“Michael wants to thank everyone who has supported him, especially the SM Group with Mr. Hans Sy, and San Miguel Corp. with Mr. Ramon Ang,” said his mother. “To crack the top 10, he has to execute quad jumps and that’s his goal for next season with coach Igor.”

Martinez’ mother said performing with pain has become par for the course. “As an elite skater, Michael will always have the pain – chest, shoulder, hip, ankle, knee, back and others due to constantly falling on hard ice, especially on the quad jump practices that his whole body at times slams down very hard,” she said. “These constant pains and falls, if you’re not a tough skater, will make you think twice if you’d continue skating or not because of the constant everyday trauma on the body. Michael was treated in Boston by the doctor several times. He got treatment in California before heading to Boston. Training in figure skating and competing are very tough and risky, seriously affecting Michael’s health yet he still does not get at least any monetary allowance doing it from government while he’s been representing our country for many years.”

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