Meet & Greet Experience: Michael Christian Martinez
Friday, February 21st, I learned that Michael Martinez would be coming back from Sochi and that SM would have him perform his Olympic routines and host meet and greet sessions afterwards.
They scheduled it from the 23rd to the 25th in three different SM malls that had Olympic-sized skating rinks.
I wanted to go on the 25th since it was a holiday (Anniversary of the EDSA revolution).
I begged my parents to take me to the Mall of Asia (which was a two-hour drive away). They initially said no, telling me it was a waste of time. It drove me crazy thinking about missing the chance to meet Martinez.
I started moping, and I tried to (ironically) distract myself by painting a portrait of him.
It was a bad method of trying to forget about it. It didn’t in any way improve my hopeless mood.
I started on Sunday night, and I added the final details at about three in the morning on Tuesday (the 25th).
I wanted to see him skate. I thought it would be amazing to see him in person. Amazing because his whole Olympic journey is just pure magic. Not even just his road to the Olympics, but on his early years, and how skating started out as just an exercise to help him fight his asthma.
Nine years later, he makes history by qualifying in the Winter Olympics. Who knew a tropical country with only a handful of skating rinks could produce an Olympian? And a 17 year old at that! After two decades, a Filipino once again enters the prestigious (ice) event!
Even his mother's never-ending support was completely heartwarming. She was with him all the way through. She even learned ice-skating with him to coach him herself.
Martinez is undeniably hardworking and talented; the biggest obstacles he has probably faced were his lack of funding and his latest injuries.
That didn’t stop him.
He made it.
And the world was left in awe.
On the morning of the 25th, my dad miraculously agreed to take me to MOA. I literally wanted to start dancing. (I didn’t though.)
I decided to bring the painting in an attempt to hand it to him as a gift.
When I got to MOA, I learned that to get a meet and greet pass, you would have to be part of the first 20 skating ticket purchasers.
Well, that sucked. I had arrived late, and a huge crowd had already gathered around the rink.
I decided it would be enough just to see him perform though, so I pushed my way into the crowd and settled near the barrier that surrounded the makeshift stage.
I wanted to try skating, since I’ve never actually taken on the ice before, but then I saw those little eight year olds who could do fancy jumps and twirls. I told myself, “Okay. No way.”
There was a lot of screams and I thought the crowd was just messing around. It took me a few minutes to actually spot Michael warming up on the ice, skating his way through the little kids who were also on the rink.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. He was actually there.
At 12NN, Michael Martinez performed his Malaguena routine.
The spectators went wild. I couldn’t help but smile as he did triple axels. The landings were perfect. It was no wonder he got into the finals.
After his performance was the meet and greet. I watched enviously as the press and the lucky ticket holders were ushered into the press con area.
I was pressed against the metal railings near the right side of the stage. We patiently waited for Michael to appear. I had my painting out, and I was clutching it nervously over the other side of the barrier.
I never expected it, but the painting caught the attention of the media.
I got interviewed. (by Rappler, I think.) Several cameramen and photographers got a shot of the painting.
Way to go, painting.
What was really unexpected was when one of the handlers (he wasn’t Filipino; he was Scottish, I think) near me took notice of my painting and signaled to me, asking if I made it and if I wanted to have it autographed. I nodded furiously, expecting him to take it from me and hand it to Michael on stage. Instead, he started talking with his colleagues, and he was pointing at me. Michael’s coaches also took notice. I asked if I could come inside the meet and greet area but he just smiled sadly and he shook his head.
Oh, well, I thought.
At one point, Michael saw my painting and went over to try and sign it. He didn’t reach me though. The crowd went wild and started pushing and shoving. Security had to pull him back.
Scottish dude finally came back and he told me something that totally blew my mind. He started giving me instructions. He told me that he couldn’t get me near the stage, but that the management was willing to let me go and see Michael after the meet and greet. He told me I could have it signed, give it as a gift, or even have them hang the painting inside the rink. It took me about a minute to let it sink in. I blurted out, “Seriously?!” And after that, I shouted my thanks as Scottish dude walked away. I was screaming internally.
After Michael Martinez signed the last photo that was handed to him, he waved goodbye, took his exit, and made his way to the side of the rink and into the conference room. The crowd started to shove and push, wanting to take a last glimpse of the Olympian.
I practically crawled out of the sea of people and ran to the side of the rink as I was instructed, and Scottish dude found me and walked me through security.
The rest was a real blur.
I remember that I couldn’t stop shaking when I came face to face with the 5'8" ice skater. I handed him the painting and I got a photo with him. I also got an autograph.
Gotta have a souvenir. Fair trade.
He was really nice, and he said thank you a lot. He was very sincere. He didn’t look like he was used to getting hundreds of fans crowding around him. Who knew right? The Winter Olympics made him an instant sensation.
I wished him luck on his competition in Sofia, Bulgaria. (World Junior Figure Skating Championships)
As I walked out of the room, I almost forgot my phone (which was used to snap the photo.) I was just too nervous!
^ It was the only photo I got and I looked reaaaaally shitty. Maybe it was from my lack of sleep and from all the crowd swimming I did.
Regardless of the haggard appearance, I’m happy I was lucky enough to get in and meet him.
His story is truly inspiring, and I know I’m not the only one blown away by it. His road to 2018 is underway, and I wish him the best of luck. I hope he finally bags a medal in PyeongChang! (Or in Bulgaria first.)
If he doesn’t (which I doubt), he’ll still be a winner to all of us!