The Philippines finally ended a 22-year absence from the Winter Olympics when figure skater Michael Christian Martinez secured the spot right at the final qualifying event for the 2014 games, which will be held in Sochi, Russia.
Michael Christian Martinez
The 16-year-old Martinez finished in seventh place in the Nebelhorn Trophy tournament two weeks ago. Growing up in the Manila suburb of Muntinlupa, Martinez started first entered competitive skating in 2008. According to the International Skating Union, he is the first Filipino to perform a triple axel, a difficult and complicated movement that involves rotating in the air. To date, no skater has performed a quadruple axel.
Martinez's qualification came three years after snowboarder Eden Serina failed to qualify for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Prior to that, the last Winter Olympic athlete from the tropical Southeast Asian country was skier Michael Teruel, who competed in the slalom events at the 1992 games in Albertville, France. The Philippines is the first country located entirely in the tropics to send games to the WInter Olympics. At the Sapporo Olympics in 1972, two skiers participated in the giant slalom, with only one -- Ben Nanasca -- finishing the course.
While other tropical countries, notably those located in the Caribbean, have sent athletes to the Winter Olympics, most of them have been lugers and bobsledders. The most notable of the Caribbean teams was the Jamaican bobsled team that competed in 1988, 1992, and 1994, and which was immortalized in the 1993 film Cool Runnings.
The only other Southeast Asian country to send athletes to the Winter Olympics is Thailand, which sent cross-country skier Prawat Nagvajara to the 2002 and 2006 editions of the games.
There are only two ice skating rinks in the country, both located in malls, and mall operator SM has ramped up its support for local ice skaters, sponsoring teams that compete in tournaments all over the world.
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