By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
Welcome to the second week of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. We take a look at the medals won by Asian countries and U.S. Asian Pacific Islander athletes. Notably, the young and old are doing well.
Japan wins figure skating gold
19-year-old Yuzuru Hanyu scored an upset in men’s figure skating, after a record-setting high score in the short program. He hung on — despite a flawed free skate — to win the gold medal. Three-time world champion Canadian Patrick Chan couldn’t unseat the Japanese skater and had to settle for silver.
Chan made some key mistakes during his performance and was unable to make up the point deductions. This has to be a disappointment for Chan, who is a world champion and is considered to be one of Canada’s top athletes. Canada has longed for a gold medal in men’s figure skating, and Chan was the best shot at achieving this.
Hanyu started skating at the age of 4. He came up with the performance of his life in the short program, one component of the overall men’s program. It was a memorable first Olympics for Hanyu.
No medal, but Filipino ice skater has many fans
Unlike Chan, Michael Christian Martinez was not expected to win a medal in men’s figure skating. However, he is the first Filipino athlete participating in the Winter Olympics since the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville, France.
Martinez was the lone representative for the Philippines during the opening ceremonies, as he carried his county’s flag. Due to the uniqueness of his position as the only athlete from the Philippines, his celebrity status has grown on social media. He has over 17,000 followers on Twitter and more than 58,000 “likes” on his Facebook page.
Martinez 19th in men’s figure skating competition
Martinez started ice skating at the age of 9, when he saw a skating rink at a mall. The sport was the only one that he could participate in without his asthma flaring up. He competed on the junior circuit, and then moved to California to train for the Sochi Games. His training included working with past and present ice skating stars.
Martinez also trained for a month in Russia to prepare himself for the competition.
A bit of controversy has grown regarding Martinez as a New York Times article indicated that he has struggled with training costs. As a result, he has received financing through the Philippines government. However, there was a report that an e-mail from Martinez’s mother to the office of President Benigno Aquino III requesting financial support did not get to the president. Rather, the office said that it did not receive the e-mail and it may have gone to the “spam” filter.
Financial struggles are common among young athletes trying to achieve their dreams, while figuring out how to pay for training. It’s likely that with the celebrity status of Martinez, his finances will improve.
South Korean wins first speed skating gold for Russia, Celski still without medal
Viktor Ahn is the most popular Russian of South Korean descent, especially after winning the country’s first gold medal in short track speed skating. Ahn, who left South Korea to skate for Russia, scored the country’s first medal in the 1,500-meter speed skating event, and won gold in the men’s 1,000-meter race. Federal Way’s J.R. Celski narrowly missed the medal stand and finished fourth.
Celski has one final individual event, the 500-meter race. He has team events, where he can medal as well.
Japan shuts out Flying Tomato in half pipe
Shaun White was the United States’ best hope for a medal in the men’s snowboard half pipe event. Previously known as the “Flying Tomato,” White has cut his signature red flowing hair in favor of a more corporate style. He is one of the top snowboarders in the world. However, he proved he was human in the half pipe final when he was unable to finish off a couple signature moves and ended out of medal contention. As a result, Japanese snowboarders Ayumu Hirano and Taku Hiraoka earned the silver and bronze, respectively. The gold medal went to Switzerland’s Iouri Podladtchikov.
Notably, Hirano is just 15 years old and Hiraoka is 18. At 27, White is an “old man” in this sport, compared to the two Japanese snowboarders. Hirano and Hiraoka will probably be competing with White in four years at the next Winter Olympics.
41-year-old earns first medal in 20 years
Last week, we introduced you to Japanese ski jumper Noriaki Kasai. At 41 years old, he was the oldest athlete competing in the ski jump. Kasai had never won a gold medal in the Olympics and with only one other ski jumper left on the large hill, he was in first and had the gold medal in his grasp. But that jumper was the only athlete to score higher than Kasai. Alas, Kasai had to be satisfied with the silver medal. His last Olympic medal was in 1994.
Kasai also won a bronze medal in the team competition, which gives him three total for his Olympic career.
Kasai took the medals in honor of his sister, who was hospitalized due to complications from hypoplastic anemia.
Kasai’s three medals could increase in four years as he plans to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. Even with the two medals this year, Kasai still yearns for a gold medal. (end)
Jason Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.