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Figure skater Michael Martinez arrives in Manila to warm welcome.

Byline: Doris C. Dumlao

MANILA -- Figure skater Michael Martinez came back to Manila on Sunday after a much-feted 22-day Winter Olympics adventure in Sochi, Russia.

Upon touchdown, his first stop would be SM Mall of Asia, where he learned his fancy moves on the mall's ice skating rinks, one of them being his famous rendition of the Biellman spin - a technique that only he executed among all the participants, showcasing his grace and flexibility.

The SM group - developer of this shopping mall chain where Martinez discovered and honed his skating talent - has prepared to roll out the red carpet for the young athlete and showered him with surprise gifts on Sunday.

SM Prime Holdings president Hans Sy has been set to award Martinez with a $10,000-cheque from the SM Foundation. SM would also give Martinez a Lifetime Skating Privilege, which allows him to skate for free on any of SM's skating rinks.

Martinez would also be presented with a Global Pinoy Card. "SM believes in rewarding each and every hardworking Filipino who has achieved success abroad," SM said in a press statement.

The Global Pinoy Centers count Filipino stars such as Martinez and Manny Pacquiao as honorary cardholders and all other hardworking overseas Filipino workers who have sacrificed to make life better for their loved ones and for the country.

At only 17 years old, Martinez brought much honor to the Philippines by being the very first homegrown figure skater to represent the Philippines in the Winter Olympics. He is likewise the first from tropical Southeast Asia to compete in this winter sport.

Martinez ranked 19th overall in the men's singles, a big jump from his 30th rank upon qualifying for the Olympics, among thousands of aspirants.

As a show of further appreciation from his SM family, Martinez also received various gifts from other SM companies such as gift certificates and cash cards from The SM Store, SM Supermarket, China Banking Corp. and a free three-day/two-night accommodation at SM's heritage Taal Vista Hotel.

Earlier, the group of businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan likewise announced a $10,000 cash gift for Martinez. After Sunday's homecoming celebration at MOA, Martinez will have a series of SM mall tours. He will have a special performance at SM Southmall on Monday, February 24, at 4 pm.

Martinez frequented SM Southmall in Las Pinas in his early years and much later on in SM Mall of Asia for figure skating competitions despite frequent bouts of asthma.

Fans and friends will also have a chance to meet and greet Martinez as he performs on February 25 at Mall of Asia at 12 noon and 4 p.m. at SM Megamall.

This homecoming is seen short but sweet for Martinez, who will next head off to Sofia, Bulgaria, on March 10-16 to compete in the prestigious World Junior Figure Skating Championships. He ranked 5th overall in the same competition in 2013.

Martinez aims to earn a medal this time following his experience at and training for the Winter Olympics. Thereafter, Martinez will train in the United States for the Grand Prix of Figure Skating Championships series, which will start in August.

Since skating at eight years old, Martinez has garnered 194 medals and trophies from various international and local competitions. Martinez clinched 7th place at the 2013 Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany that qualified him for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Through the years, SM and the SM-sponsored Philippine Skating Union have conducted several figure skating competitions that have bred international champions such as Martinez.

"The excellence demonstrated by skaters especially during competitions is a mark of quality that the SM Skating Rink can provide with its world-class venue and facilities," the SM statement said.

SM Prime operates skating rinks through SM Lifestyle Entertainment at the SM Mega Fashion Hall in Mandaluyong, SM Mall of Asia in Pasay and SM Southmall in Las Pinas.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Feb 23, 2014
Words:646
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