By DAVID CASUCO
SOUTHEAST Asia’s premiere figure skater Michael Christian Martinez will skip next week’s World Junior Figure Skating Championship in Sofia, Bulgaria due to lingering back and knee injuries.
Coach Scott Wendland and Martinez’s doctors decided Friday, March 7 after an evaluation session at Lake Forest, California where the 17-year old Olympian did a routine skate to see if he was fit for competition. The coach observed that Martinez needs more preparations, the doctor and the chiropractor agreed that some of his old injuries have not completely healed; the most bothersome of those is the knee on his right landing foot that, until now, remains sore and swollen.
In an electronic communication sent to this writer by Teresa, Michael’s mom who also acts as de-facto coach, it said, “Michael withdraws from junior worlds.”
“Michael really wanted to compete in Bulgaria, but his chiropractor said that his injured right knee needed to be rested for a ‘few days’ to ‘a couple of weeks’,” Teresa said. “What I am concerned now that my son is out of the junior worlds is the sanction that the Federation/PSU might impose. In November 2013, when I pulled out Michael from the Nationals due to swollen right knee, the Fed/PSU immediately assigned the slot for the important Senior World championship to a Fil-Am skater, although traditionally the Four Continents Championship (not the Nationals) is the touchstone for senior worlds qualifiers.”
At the 2013 ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Italy, Martinez surprised everybody when he checked in fourth after the short program. In that event, Americans Joshua Farris, Jason Brown and Shotaro Omori made a gold-silver-bronze sweep.
Martinez, who is now ranked No. 5 among the junior figure skaters in the world, had a good shot at a medal in last year’s junior worlds when he did a near-flawless short program that earned him 67.01 points, good for fourth (http://www.isuresults.com/results/wjc2013/). But his lack of training took its tool in the freeskate where he came in with a mediocre 124.63. He dropped to fifth.
His grace and flexibility, though, had the figure skating world buzzing that the Filipino could be one of the future figure skating stars. Martinez’s Sochi stint, where he came out the most supported Olympic athlete, validated his worth in a sport traditionally dominated by Europeans, Japanese, South Koreans and North Americans.
A couple of months earlier, in November 2012, Martinez captured gold in his first competition in the senior division, the first for the Philippines in a sport regarded as recreational by most Filipinos.
Essentially, Martinez is still a junior skater, but he can also compete in the seniors division. A skater can compete in both junior and senior divisions until age 19. Meaning, Martinez can go on competing in then junior division for two more years before he stays as a senior skater.
On the question why did Michael have to go home to Manila instead of preparing early for Bulgaria, Teresa admitted, “It was not our plan. Michael lost valuable training time for the Bulgaria event when the Fed/PSU asked him to go back to Manila. The original plan was for him to go back from Sochi to Moscow to continue his training under Russian coach Victor Kudryavtsev. “
“While in Manila, Michael followed a very hectic schedule. Masyadong hectic yung sked. He didn’t have time to go to a physical therapist for his sore knee. When we left Manila for California on Feb. 27 may fever na si Michael, overfatigue plus he had asthma attack and he was coughing na.”
And if you think that the “generous” pledges and cash incentives all yieded immediate profits, you have another think coming because a lot of those pledges still remain, well, just pledges.
Asked if she has collected the $10,000 bonanza from SM, Teresa said, “The $10K bonus of SM is not yet given to date.” She added, “ I followed it up on March 4 yung $10K from the Phil. Skating Union and SM, and they promised naman that: We will follow it up with the new management and update you as soon as possible.”
(David Casuco writes sports and spirituality for examiner.com. He finished his journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas and took expanded theological studies at the Angelus Bible Institute in Los Angeles).