much ado about michael, and why google is your friend

it's interesting how michael christian martinez's participation in the 2014 winter olympics has suddenly turned every filipino with a social network account into an expert in and enthusiast of figure skating when a few weeks ago, many of these guys probably thought a triple axel was something you'd find in a car. one of the more preposterous claims i've heard is that michael is the first filipino to participate in the winter olympics. another ill-researched declaration is that michael's journey to the olympics is made even more amazing by the fact that he comes from a country with no snow. without meaning to steal the thunder from this young filipino who has brought pride to many of his kababayans including myself with his stellar performance in the rink, let me just state a few facts. now, don't get me wrong, i didn't know much of these two weeks ago, but a news report that michael is the first filipino to participate in the olympics in the last 22 years triggered my online sleuthing. i asked myself: did i understand that correctly, or has my tropical country previously been to the winter olympics? the answers below are readily available in wikipedia.

  • the philippines first participated in the 1972 winter olympics in sapporo. we had two participants competing in men's alpine skiing, although they didn't do very well. our next appearance took place in 1988 in calgary; this time our lone winter olympian participated in luge. the next edition of the winter olympic in 1992 was held in albertville, france, and we had another lone olympian participating in alpine skiing. so michael is the fifth filipino winter olympian.

  • the sport of luge is similar to the bobsled. it involves careening down an icy slope on a piece of equipment built precisely for that purpose. the 1993 movie "cool runnings" about a jamaican team competing in the bobsled competition was based on that country's participation in the 1998 winter olympics. so truth be told, the philippines had done something boldly similar in the same year, although it didn't really spark any interest.

  • no tropical country has even won an olympic medal in the winter games, although australia is considered as the first nation from the southern hemisphere to have won a gold.

  • apart from the philippines, 16 other countries with tropical climates are represented in sochi.

  • michael is not the only athlete from southeast asia competing in this year's winter olympics, unless of course you don't consider timor-leste a country, or you consider it a country, but don't think it's part of southeast asia.

  • next to bolivia, the philippines had the earliest debut in the winter games.

  • michael has previously been to the winter olympics. its youth version, that is: the first winter youth olympics in insbruck, austria 2 years ago. only 5 tropical nations were represented there, and the philippines sent 2 young olympians. the alpine skier carried the flag for the country. michael finished 7th in his event overall out of a field of 16. he actually ranked 3rd in the short program. so he really is among the best in the world.

  • along with jamaica, the philippines has participated in the winter olympics a total of 4 times. this is only surpassed by senegal, which has sent teams in 5 editions of the games.

it's alright to be proud of the achievements of a fellow filipino even if we had no contribution to that person's success, but it's even better to be both proud and accurate. remember folks, google is your friend, and there's no harm in verifying what you think are facts before you post them for all to see and you're later revealed as ignorant, stupid, or maybe just too quick on the draw.