Michael Christian Martinez’s breakthrough to the Winter Olympics in Sochi is of such great significance to Philippine sports that it does not really matter how far he goes. Realistically, without any previous international titles and minus a few significant components to his routine such as a quadruple jump which separates the good from the great, he will likely not medal. But let’s remember that Michael is technically still a junior skater who has just qualified for his first Olympics against all odds.
There has been much comparison made between Martinez and the Jamaican bobsled team which qualified for the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary. That team eventually finished in 14th place – ahead of the US – in 1994 after the Winter Olympics schedule was adjusted so as mot to coincide with the Summer Games. But that team, fictionalized in the late comedian John Candy’s last movie “Cool Runnings” begged and borrowed even spare sleds from other countries at the Winter Olympics themselves.
In the case of Martinez, there are several reminders that we can draw inspiration from.
First, that nothing is impossible. There are so many reasons why he shouldn’t have made it in the first place, and the odds are really against Martinez to begin with. But look at what he has accomplished. He has overcome inadequate support, lack of media attention and even bouts of loneliness and injury to suddenly grab headlines around the world. He is in Sochi as an equal to the greatest athletes in the world, as a teenager. Most of all, he has inspired millions on his own country.
Second, you need to be among the best to be the best. The most significant costs for an already expensive sport like skating are travel and coaching. Nothing comes cheap. Even our own national team has to cut down on travel for coaches simply for sustainability. Parents of skaters have to weigh in heavily or their will get nowhere. But you have to travel to Europe to qualify for the bigger events, and get coaching from past champions and their mentors. And that is not cheap.
Third, you have to have your own strategy. In a sport where the US is not a traditional power, Martinez has proven that daring is its own reward. His routine emphasizes the artistic side of skating, which many more powerfully built, older skaters do not place as much importance on. However, as proven by Nancy Kerrigan and other great skaters, having a stronger artistic foundation pays off. Though she never won an Olympic gold medal, she was a consistent medalist and US champion. In the event of a tie, the artistic score is what usually makes a difference.
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