Like many Filipinos, Malou Tiquia has been captivated by the stirring performance of Michael Martinez on the skating rink at the Sochi Winter Olympics last February.
The 17-year-old figure skater from Muntinlupa City finished 19th overall in the free skate category, a remarkable feat for the Philippines’ lone entry in Winter Olympics.
Martinez became an instant sports celebrity, but this early, limited financial support threatens to put a brake on his promising career.
“Seeing Martinez skate on TV at Sochi made me decide to assist Mike,” Tiquia, the founder and CEO of Publicus Asia Inc., told The Manila Times by phone Saturday.
“Knowing that after his performance in Sochi and a gold medal at another competition and realizing that government was not extending any assistance made me do my share to ensure that our only gold medal hope can be competitive going to 2018 Olympics,” the former varsity athlete from University of the Philippines said.
Tiquia is spearheading a campaign among Filipino-Americans to pass the hat around to fund the training of Martinez as he prepares for the Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
After the Sochi Games, Martinez skipped the 2014 world championship after being sidelined with a knee injury. He returned to competition with a flourish, winning the gold in the Triglav Trophy event.
Tiquia’s objective is to raise enough money to sustain all of Martinez’s needs for the next four years. To achieve this, she wants to tap the 10 million Filipinos living abroad.
“If each Filipino contributes a peso for Mike, it will allow him to get the best coach, have the money for skating ring practice, have the food to nourish his health and be attended by sports doctor when needed be,” she said.
“I also do not want another Southeast Asian country to offer Mike a citizenship, just so someone can take care of his financial needs to be competitive,” Tiquia said. “If government doesn’t see this as a priority, then Filipinos worldwide should make it a priority.”
She warned the public that there are scrupulous individuals out there who are using the name of Martinez for fundraising scams. “There will be only one authorized site and group who will handle this part,” she said.
Tiquia said Martinez’s national sport association, the Philippine Skating Union, has nothing to do with the fundraising drive. “They have a role to play and this private effort is being done by private citizens,” she said.