Michael Christian Martinez, 21, won’t repeat as Southeast Asia’s representative to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
The Filipino figure skater was not only the Philippines’ first Winter Olympian but also the region’s only competitor in the event in the 2014 edition in Sochi.
Southeast Asia will be represented this time in South Korea by Julian Zhi-Jie Yee, a 20-year-old figure skater from Malaysia and regarded as Martinez’s chief rival in the region.
Yee earned his slot in the last qualifying tournament—the CS Nebelhorn Trophy—in Oberstdorf, Germany in October last year by finishing 5th.
In that qualifier that picked only 6 skaters, Martinez placed 8th, missing the main draw in men’s figure skating in Pyeongchang.
The Filipino Olympian was edged out by the Ukraine’s Yaroslav Paniot, who ended up 7th but was given the 6th and last ticket to Pyeongchang because the American Alexander Johnson, who had already qualified before the Nebelhorn Trophy qualifier, enabled the top 7 in Oberstdorf to each move one rung up.
Jorik Hendrickx of Belgium ruled the final hurdle in his quest for Olympic glory in South Korea.
Yee already gave an inkling that he would eclipse Martinez in the 2017 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games where the Malaysian beat the Filipino the first time that figure skating (men and women) and other winter events were contested in the regional biennial competition.
Martinez still has youth on his side as he will only be 25 when the next Winter Olympic Games is held, that is if he would continue his skating career.
He could redeem himself, at least from his defeat to Yee in last year’s SEA Games, by winning the gold medal in men’s figure skating in the 2019 edition of the regional games that the Philippines will be hosting.
It is unlikely that the country would scrap winter events and Martinez should be the “favorite” to win, barring any serious injury or other reasons.
Men’s, and women’s, figure skating being a subjective sport could go the way of Yee or his Filipino rival—or an upset-conscious Indonesian or Cambodian—that is if the Malaysian goes on skating until the next Winter Olympic Games.
At this time, Martinez’s fate as a figure skater would depend on the government and the private sector, not necessarily his desire to skate for as long as he can.
Sponsors, understandably, want to see winners, or at least qualifiers for the world’s premier sports extravaganzas.
For now, let’s just say Martinez has been skating on thin ice.