Editorial: Michael, who?

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Sunday, February 9, 2014

THE name Michael Christian Martinez must be among the most searched name in the Internet these days after walking in with flag in hand at the opening of the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi in Russia.

There was barely any mention of him, not even of the Winter Olympics, until he marched out.

Understandably too, because if we base it on the reply of Michael’s mother Teresa with regards government support for her child’s Olympic dreams, this was all she said in an article by the Catholic News Service readable online through The Catholic Register: "I don't even think anyone at the president's office knows there's a Filipino skating in the Olympics."


She added that she has written the office of the president several times but received no reply.

In a statement over state-run dxRB Radyo ng Bayan, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda did not even mention any such letter, and only expressed confidence that Michael will excel, even referring to the lanky teenage figure skater by his second name, Christian.

"We hope the Filipino people are behind Christian and his quest for gold at the Sochi Olympics," Lacierda said over the state-run dzRB Radyo ng Bayan. "The Palace is very, very proud of such athletes, and is confident they can excel when given the chance."

The Catholic Register news details how Michael had to do without a coach in several competitions simply because they cannot afford one. It would only be him and his mother flying to some international competition because bringing along a coach will mean spending for one other person. As it is, the mother said, she already mortgaged their house to raise the needed funds to bring Michael to the Winter Olympics. Moreso, because they were eyeing the 2018 Olympics, and were thus surprised when he qualified for this year’s games.

But, maybe, qualifying under the radar of Philippine sports officials worked to Michael's advantage. Maybe. We are basing our statement from past controversies were deserving athletes are yanked out from the roll because someone else’s pet has to be accommodated. That’s not a very unique story in this part of the world where politics and sports are interwoven into a tightly tangled web, very difficult to unravel especially when you are just a teenager with a big Olympic dream.

We can only look forward to the day when this will no longer be the norm and sports development will truly be looked at as the development of each and every potential athlete to become a strong contender to whatever competition there might be, starting from the grassroots up to the international arena. That is our wish, a wish that cannot be granted for as long as sports officials only attend to their jobs for compliance purposes and see their positions as positions as a leverage to push in their own kin, friends, and close associates for those much-coveted international competitions.

Michael looks forward to place in the final 24 in Sochi because this will ensure him a slot as well to the 2018 Olympics, the original target.

"I just need to qualify... if I get support I will continue to do this," he told Catholic News Service. His fallback plan is to become a coach and study sports medicine.

If not, "then I'll just ... study." A statement that may sound very innocent but rings with the truth of the dire prospects of those who dream of becoming an international athlete.

May Michael be the last international-grade teenage athlete who, despite holding high a dream, be shackled to the reality that under Philippine circumstances, lofty athletic dreams are close to impossible. May no other young athlete be willing to let go of his dream because of the reality that he can expect no support other than what his family and friends can afford.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 10, 2014.


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