Martinez overwhelmed by support, eyes 2018 Olympics

(FINAL UPDATE) He may not come home with a medal, but Filipino figure skater Michael Christian Martinez certainly won a lot of admirers after giving a good account of himself in his Winter Olympics debut.

Picking up from where he left off in the short program, the 17-year-old Martinez displayed a "performance to be proud of" during the men's figure skating free program Friday night at the 22nd Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Performing to the tune of "Malaguena” by Ernesto Lecuona, the proud Muntinlupa City native captivated the live audience and his countrymen glued to their television sets with a stunning combination of breathtaking stunts like triple and double axles plus double toes, double flip and double circles in close to four minutes of performance.

Skating third, Martinez garnered 119.44 points in the free program and, adding his score of 64.81 in the short program, jacked up his overall score to 184.25, enough to temporarily push him to the top spot after the first seven skaters.

"He's giving everything he's got," said a TV commentator. "He fought his way through. He really skated the program very, very well. He really looked very, very impressive indeed. He's a very talented spinner because he is very flexible."

But eventually the quality of the competition eventually caught up with the young skater as he eventually slid to second behind Misha Ge of Uzbekistan and then third behind Ge and Jorik Hendrickx of Belgium. Then after the ninth competitor, the United States' Jeremy Abbott, turned in a 160.21 that gave him the overall lead at 232.70, Martinez slipped to fourth to formally bow out of the medal race.

Martinez finished in 19th place. Yuzuru Hanyu went on to win the gold with a total score of 280.09 while Patrick Chan of Canada copped the silver with 275.62, The bronze went to Denis Ten of Kazakhstan, who submitted a score of 255.10.

ALSO READ: Pinoy Pride: Martinez qualifies for medal round with impressive Olympic debut

Still, it was an experience of a lifetime for the youngster, and one that captivated the nation. In a live phone patch interview with Sports5's Patricia Bermudez-Hizon shortly after his performance, Martinez sounded satisfied with his two-day showing.

"Sobrang saya ko," he said before expressing his gratitude for the support he has received from his fellow Filipinos. "Nakakataba talaga ng puso 'yung suporta na binibigay nila sa'kin. Thankful talaga ako sa support na binibigay niyo (his countrymen)."

Martinez also revealed he got the attention of some of his rivals, disclosing: "Napupuna nila 'yung galing ng skates ko. Madaming nagsasabi na mahusay ako."

And this early, Martinez is already setting his sights on the next Winter Olympiad set to be hosted by Pyeongchang, South Korea in 2018.

"My goal is to qualify and compete for the next Winter Olympics," he said.

Martinez, though, won't be going home empty-handed after Gilas coach Chot Reyes announced via Twitter that the MVP Sports Foundation, which lent finanical support to the young skater, will be giving him a bonus of $10,000 (around PhP450,000) for his performance.

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