by Kristel Satumbaga
Olympian Michael Martinez spearheads the Philippine team that will compete in the 2017 Asian Winter Games slated Feb. 19 to 26 in Sapporo, Japan.
The 20-year-old Martinez became the first Winter Olympian from the Southeast Asian region when he took part in the figure skating competition of the 2014 Sochi Games.
Joining Martinez are Jules Alpe, Shayane Casapao and Samantha Cabiles – all competing in figure skating.
Also competing are Kathryn Magno in short track speed skating, Ryan Espiritu in snowboarding, and the 23-man men’s ice hockey squad.
In all, 29 Filipinos will be seeing action in the event – a marked improvement from the three-man team that took part in the 2011 edition in Astana, Kazakhstan.
Zhaira Costiniano emerged as the best performer among the three as she wound up seventh in figure skating.
With his Olympic experience, Martinez is confident of figuring well in his event along with the country’s ice hockey team.
The hockey team got lucky after being drawn with three Middle East teams –Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar. The other team is Kyrgyzstan.
The team is composed of Fil-Swiss captain John Steven Fuglister, Fil-French assistant captain Francois Gautlier and Carl Michael Montano, Javier Alfonso, Jose Iñigo Cadiz, Philip Cheng, Michael Wang, Carlo Garrucho, Benjamin Imperial, Gianpietro Iseppi, Lenard Lancero, Alison Lapiz, Hector Navasero, Georgino Orda, Michel Relampagos, Jed Reyes, Jon Davis Samson, Paul Sanchez, Julian and Julius Santiago, Miguel Serrano, Pabolo Spatford, and Patrick Syquiatco.