MANILA, Philippines — After a two-year hiatus from competition, the Muntinlupa sensation who put the Philippines on the world figure skating map is raring to reconquer the ice with the goal of making it to the next two Winter Olympics in Beijing in 2022 and Milan in 2026. Michael Martinez, 24, was the first Southeast Asian figure skater to qualify for the Winter Games and has performed in Sochi in 2014 and Pyeongchang in 2018. Twice, he topped the Triglav Trophy in Slovenia and also took first place at the Asian Trophy in Bangkok, the Skate Helena in Serbia and the Crystal Skate in Romania. Martinez has represented the country thrice at the World Championships.
Martinez took a step back from the rink after the 2018 Winter Olympics and failed to participate in the 2019 SEA Games, citing a miscommunication with the Philippine Skating Union (PSU). He won a silver in the 2017 SEA Games. To keep himself busy, Martinez turned to coaching and established a social media presence as an influencer in the US where he has lived on and off since 2010. Last June in the midst of the pandemic, Martinez returned home, rethought his career and decided to make a comeback.
“I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life,” said Martinez who is half-Filipino, half-Japanese. “I listened to people who didn’t give me good advice. I asked myself why I am coaching when I should be skating. I was born to perform. I grew up proving myself to other people. Now, I want to prove something to myself. I’m back with Russian coach Nikolai Morozov who has given me new life. He’s in New Jersey so I do zoom training with him, we talk about my choreography, what I need to do to qualify for Beijing. It’s difficult when you’re not training on ice but I’m staying in shape, working three to four hours a day in the gym, doing plyometrics, rotations. Once I go back to the rink, it’ll be like old times.”
Yesterday, Martinez met with prospective sponsors who’ll back up his Olympic quest. He’s in close contact with newly-elected PSU president Nikki Cheng. “Figure skating is an expensive sport,” he said. “I know I have to produce results to get sponsors but I’m hoping to be given the chance to do it.” If Martinez is able to get support, he’ll hook up with Morozov in New Jersey this month to prepare for the Tirnavia Ice Cup in Slovakia on March 11-14. A strong showing in Slovakia will mean qualifying points for the World Championships in Stockholm on March 22-28. Martinez said he also hopes to compete in the Uzbekistan Open on May 14-16 then the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany on Sept. 22-25. The process should bring Martinez back to the Olympics on Feb. 4-20, 2022.
“Coach Nikolai and I have discussed the music for my performance this season,” said Martinez. “For the long program, it will be a medley of Queen songs ‘Another One Bites The Dust,’ ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘We Will Rock You’ and for the short, it will be a Mozart piece. I’ll polish my triple axel but maybe, I won’t try my quads yet until later. I weigh 160 pounds now and I’ll bring it down to 150-153. Once I’m back on ice, I’ll start losing unnecessary muscle. I think I’m a lot stronger now, more mature. My landings will be more exact. World champion Yozuru Hanyu is 26 and I’m two years younger. There are young ones coming up. If I stay active and focused, I believe I’ll be back in the Olympics again.”
Morozov, 46, said he’s confident Martinez will live his dream. “Michael is very talented and I see great potential in him,” said Morozov. “Together with the team that I will be forming exclusively for him, I can help him excel even further. No tropical nation has ever won a Winter Olympic medal and for all intents and purposes, Michael is aiming to be the first. Our main goal is for Michael to be one of the top contenders in the next Winter Olympics. In addition, we are also aiming to win the upcoming competitions. I have high hopes and I’m confident I can make him a champion.”