As we entered the weekend, social media was buzzing about a Filipino by the name of Michael Christian Martinez, born November 4, 1996, that makes him 17-years-old. Michael is a Filipino figure skater. By Sunday, netizens were getting mad because of the sad tale told by the mother of Michael on the lack of support by the Aquino administration for his son’s training. Truly sad!
Good thing TV5 is covering the Winter Games and we saw the beautiful opening and the march of athletes as well as the first turn by Martinez on the ice. I held my breath like I did back years ago when I watched Kristine Tsuya “Kristi” Kamaguchi, an American figure skater. She was the 1992 Olympic Champion in ladies’ singles. Yamaguchi also won two World Figure Skating Championships in 1991 and 1992 and a US Figure Skating Championships in 1992. At that time, there was no SM ice rink. And from her I learned the different moves: axel, flip, lutz, loop, sail how, throw jumps, spiral, twizzle, spins, arabesque and my fave, the Beillman spin.
And so it was like time travel for me but with technology, it was like you were in Sochi. Minutes after the technical glitch in the opening routine, fireworks burst and lit up the night sky outside the gleaming 40,000-capacity Fisht Stadium located on the shores of the Black Sea. With the Internet, one can watch the 7-23 February games in the comfort of one’s room and that got me to stare at the tablet screen when Philippines was called and a motley team of 5 walked gallantly with our flag waving through the cold Russian air. The old athlete spirit in me whispered good luck not knowing that the flag bearer was the lone athlete for the PH.
Martinez was fifth at the 2013 World Junior Championships and has won two senior international medals. Michael was the flag bearer and the lone athlete from the Philippine competing in the Winter Olympics at Sochi, Russia. Yes, despite the lack of material support by the national government to our national athletes, just like before, they would often stand tall for the flag. Among athletes, that’s an honor code even if our uniforms don’t fit, our jackets can’t stand the fierce cold weather, meager allowance for food, etc. Athletes are trained for the ultimate stage: fighting for the flag and Martinez proved, at the tender age of 17, that he can hold his head up, as athletes before him did, despite the lack of support from government. Imagine how far the billions of pesos in PDAF can go or the billions of pesos lost because of rice smuggling or the juggling of funds via DAP? The Secretary of Budget should have augmented the lack of funds of Martinez since he is in the habit of augmenting non-itemized allocations.
Fisht Stadium is a state-of-the-art arena, one of several construction projects that have swelled the budget of the Winter Games to a record $50 billion. Russians are up in arms because of this in the same way as Brazilians questioned the appropriateness of building a new stadium for the World Cup. I guess governments across the globe are having a hard time understanding the new norm. But I digress, I am writing this column in the hope that we can start a Martinez fund.
SM should continue to support Martinez and the billionaires should start walking the talk. That’s one athlete and he is preparing for 2018. Any takers? I don’t think any of the billionaires knew a Filipino athlete was competing in the Winter Games. Now you know, what do you plan to do? Now you know that their house has been mortgaged so that Michael can represent the country in Sochi, what do you plan to do? Must we set aside the pleas of the mother of Michael?
Mr. President, our flag is waving mightily proud in the Winter Olympics, for the very first time. We have our first serious and possible Winter Olympics medalist or a serious finisher at that as well as the first representative from Southeast Asia. Don’t miss the boat please.
And let’s not forget President Aquino, the Olympic motto is the Latin phrase: Citius, Altius, Fortius. It also looks like a good thing for PH.