![CDATA[Michael Christian Martinez qualifies for finals in Sochi Olympics]]

![CDATA[Michael Christian Martinez, the only Filipino athlete competing in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, has qualified Thursday night for the final free skate to be held Friday.

[caption id="attachment_95283" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Michael Christian Martinez of the Philippines holds up a jacket at the "kiss and cry" area after his figure skating men's short program at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, February 13, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson[/caption]

Competing in the men short program, Martinez at 12 midnight (Philippine time) placed third with a score of 64.81, then placed fourth after USA's Jeremy Abbott bagged a score of 72.58. Two hours later, he ranked ninth while Abbott landed down to number five. Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu scored 101.45 at No. 1. Although more figure skaters like him were still waiting to do their numbers at that point and the score ranking still changing, Martinez was already in and would be among the 24 skaters competing for the finals.

He scored a 33.31 in technical and a 31.5 in the component for a 64.81 score. It was his best score of the skating season.

Martinez was assured of entry into the free program on Friday after Russian legend Evgeni Plushenko withdrew from the contest, while Viktor Romanekov of Estonia and Brendan Kerry of Great Britain failed to beat the Filipino’s score.

His qualifying number was performed to a cut from the 1968 film soundtrack of Romeo and Juliet, including the song “What is a Youth”.

Martinez, a 17-year-old from Paranaque City, caught the eye of international news agencies when he became the first representative of Southeast Asia to compete in the Winter Olympics. The feat was all the more remarkable because he comes from a tropical nation.

Before Thursday’s competition, Martinez told NBCOlympics.com that it would be already be a big achievement if he made it to the top 24.

"I don't know what placement I'll get because my training is so different, but we'll see,” he added.

Martinez asked for prayers in his Facebook account, and thanked all his supporters. “Please pray for me. My event starts tonight,” he said.

Last September, Martinez enchanted the judges and audience when he performed to Lucia Micarelli’s Nocturne/Bohemian Rhapsody at the 45th Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany. His performance was good enough to qualify, him for the Winter Olympics.]]

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