Michael Christian Martinez from the Philippines wouldn’t be the first elite athlete to quit their sport after not qualifying for the Olympics. He did just that when he missed qualifying for the PyeongChang Games in September.
After not qualifying, Martinez was so disappointed he stopped practicing altogether.
"I didn't qualify and I stopped skating," Martinez said. "My federation told me that it is not going to happen, the other countries confirmed their spots. I thought, 'It is destiny, it is not meant to be'."
Martinez made history four years ago in Sochi, when he became the first-ever Filipino figure skater to compete at the Olympics.
In September, at a competition in Germany, Martinez needed to finish in the top six to qualify an entry for his country to skate at the Olympics. He finished in seventh.
A dejected Martinez returned home empty handed and quit. He thought, "Skating is expensive and it's hard. What is the point for me? My goal was to go to the Olympics one more time."
But as fate would have it, Martinez got the call right before the start of the Games that he was in. Just 16 days before the Opening Ceremony of the 2018 Games, Sweden’s National Olympic Committee returned its qualification place that Alexander Majorov earned in Germany. Sweden has very strict nomination criteria, and the figure skater did not meet it after his results at the European figure skating championships.
That same day, Martinez received a simple message from his federation. “You are in.”
There was no time to celebrate for the 21-year-old. He immediately packed his bag, grabbed his skates and went to the ice rink to begin training.
Martinez hadn’t practiced since September. After not qualifying, Martinez returned to studying business law and started a job as an assistant at a law firm in Irvine, California. It wasn’t easy.
"I was falling non-stop and I had bruises everywhere," he said.
But all the hard work was worth it for the Filipino.
"I was ecstatic, I teared up when I landed in Korea and saw the Olympic rings. It's a miracle."
The skater took to social media to figure out which short program he should skate to. Twitter voted for Emerald Tiger.
Picking the program was easy, returning to form wasn’t. On Wednesday, Martinez landed his first triple Axel since starting his comeback. Going into the men’s short skate, Martinez still remained optimistic.
"I still can't believe it that I am here," he said. "No matter what happens out there in the competition, I am here and I am among the 30 best skaters of the world. I am proud I made it here."
Tonight, Martinez skated sixth in the men’s short program. His routine was clean, but his degree of difficulty just wasn’t equal to his fellow competitors. He didn’t attempt the triple Axel, and he earned a score of 55.56.
After skating, NBC commentator Tara Lipinski said it best, “He got through it. I don’t know many skaters that could come back at the end of January, we’re in February, and prepare for the Olympic Games.”
For Martinez, skating at the Olympics wasn’t ever about earning gold. Just being at the Games was winning.