SOCHI, Russia, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- At just 17, Michael Christian Martinez became the first Filipino to figure skater in the Winter Olympics, and he did it in style.
Martinez performed his short program on Thursday night and it was good enough for him to make it to the men’s free skate final on Friday. He finished 19th overall with a total segment score of 64.81.
In addition to being the only athlete from the Philippines to skate at the Winter Olympics, Martinez is also the first figure skater ever to represent a Southeast Asian country at the Winter Games.
It was difficult for Martinez’s family to send him to Sochi and if he hadn't qualified for the Olympics in 2013, his days of competitive skating would have been over.
"Now that he qualified, we are hoping we can finally get support so he can continue, and try to qualify again in 2018, where he will be more matured and more ready physically and mentally," Maria Teresa Martinez, his mother, wrote in an email to CNN.
A native of Paranaque City, Martinez struggled with asthma while he was growing up.
"I couldn't take up any sport. I tried outdoor sports when I was younger, but I easily got asthma attacks so I stopped," he wrote in his Olympic profile. "I had asthma maintenance medicine when I started skating, since the cold in the rink makes me sick too. But year after year, my health keeps improving, so my mother fully supported me to continue skating. She said it's better to spend the money on skating than in the hospital."
Nevertheless, he was able to train himself to skate in a land without snow by practicing indoors at a shopping mall.