Michael Christian Martinez of the Philippines is no longer Southeast Asia’s only figure skater competing with the big guys internationally—male or female—a distinction he enjoyed until the 2016 World Figure Skating Championships held March 28 to April 3 in Boston, Massachusetts.
Martinez, 19, finished 19th out of 30 competitors in the Boston championships that featured a star-studded field led by defending champion Javier Fernandez of Spain, the reigning Olympic champion, Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu, and Canadia Patrick Chan, a five-time world title-holder.
Skating to “Egmont Overture” by Ludwig Van Beethoven in the short program on March 30 and sporting a barong Tagalog-inspired shirt, the pride of the Philippines tallied 66.98 points.
In the free program, Martinez, this time garbed in an outfit suitable for Sergei Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, posted 137.12 points, bringing his overall score to 204.10.
His regional rival from Malaysia, Julian Zhi Jie Yee, landed at 21st place with an overall score of 202.94 points (67.60 for the short program and 135.34 for the free program).
Sarah Rasher, a blogger, seemed much more impressed with Yee than she was with Martinez.
She wrote, “The crowd got behind [Yee] of Malaysia as well, but the judges weren’t as impressed as we were. They docked grades of execution for his jump technique, and one judge gave him across-the-board marks in the 4-5 range for his components. The rest were kinder, but not kind enough for the crowd, who booed Yee’s score loudly. Others’ errors would boost [him]enough in the standings that he’d qualify for the free skate, but if anyone got robbed last night, it was him.”
Rasher’s opinion of Martinez’s performance?
“The crowd got cranky about [Martinez’s] scores, but other than his final spin, which showed off otherworldly flexibility, he wasn’t that great. I’m surprised he qualified for the free skate.”
Well, the Filipino did, his modest final score cushioned by a performance not marred by ugly falls.
In contrast, eventual winner Fernandez had a bad day at the office (he fell on one of his jumps), although not that horrible to deprive him of a second straight world title, and Canada’s Chan similarly labored to stay in the hunt.
Rasher also wrote, “Two of the three biggest names struggled, too, although their overall skating quality kept them at the top of the ranks. I understood why Fernandez and Chan picked up the high scores they did, but it must have been frustrating for the less nerdy audience members to see them vault ahead of [an American and a Russian]despite falls. Fernandez really did seem overscored to me after a fall on his quad salchow that interrupted the magic of his performance. His other two jumping passes were indeed amazing, but I’m not convinced he was a full 10 points better than [the Russian]. This is the first time I’ve seen Fernandez compete live, and I’d thought he would be more… something. Maybe he’ll win me over in the free skate.
“Chan, on the other hand, does have that thing, whatever it is, that makes him earn those components scores. His short program may be smug, but boy, does he sell that smugness. Everything is timed to a fraction of a second, the spins tell a story, and even a long, smooth edge seems dynamic. His performance was literally too big for the rink; twice, he narrowly avoided skating into the boards. I think the judges should have taken away more for the fall on his triple axel and a so-so triple lutz, but I’m fine with the huge score on his quad combination and even with his sky-high components.
“I’ve written long paragraphs about everyone else, but my blogger brain turned off for Yuzuru. He was perfect. The whole thing was transcendently beautiful. I’d feel like a jerk picking it apart. I don’t think I will. Instead, I’ll rewatch it a couple of times before I head back to the rink. If he’s this spectacular in the free skate, I might permanently lose the ability to form sentences, because Hanyu is on a different level than everyone else, plain and simple.”
Hanyu would capture the silver medal and Jin Boyang of China was the surprise winner of the bronze medal.
Meanwhile, Martinez, and perhaps Yee as well, is already looking ahead at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.