'Feel the Rhythm! Feel the Rhyme!' Warm-Weather Athletes Heating up Sochi

There are only two ice skating rinks in the entire country, both located in malls. In fact, the major mall operator in the Philippines began sponsoring teams in 2013 to compete in tournaments around the world.

Michael Christian Martinez, 17, is looking to take home his first medal this year after nine years of training. His most recent competitions span four continents -- Japan, Taiwan, Austria and Italy –- all with top rankings. According to the International Skating Union, he is the first Filipino to perform a triple axel.

Heading into the Olympics, he must overcome several injuries that he believes are due to the poor quality of ice of the rinks he trains on in the Philippines. This includes two torn ankle ligaments and a knee injury from two years ago.

Hong Kong is also situated just within the tropics. Last year was one of the country’s warmest with an average temperature of 70 degrees. Typically, the country’s spring brings warmth and humidity, the summer heat and rain, autumn sunny days and cool temperature, and the winter dry air.

Having been a skater since age seven, Pan To Barton first took up rollerskating before moving on to short-track speed skating at age 10.

He remembers the moment when he qualified for this year’s Winter Olympics. “I couldn’t sleep that night. I was so excited," he told the South China Morning Post. "I would like to thank my family -- my parents and grandparents gave me their full support when I suspended my studies to chase my dream.”

Most of his time is spent training at the Korea National Sports University in Seoul, Korea. His final preparations include 90 minutes in the morning and three to four hours off the ice in the afternoon.

He’s made it to the finals in at least 15 world championship events since 2010 and will be the first male athlete to represent Hong Kong in a winter Olympic games this February.

Australia, a country where more than half of the land is covered by desert, is another one of the warmer countries in the Olympic Games. Wide swaths of Australia have a low and unreliable amount of rainfall each year, resembling that of the Saraha and Kalahari deserts in Africa.

Nevertheless, the country will be sending a record 60 athletes to Russia, eclipsing the previous winter record of 40 athletes in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino. Additionally, the more women, 31, than men, 29, will be representing their country in events ranging from alpine skiing, to bobsleigh, to snowboard, speed skating and more.

Lydia Lassila, Olympic Aerials Champion, will be attending the Olympics for the fourth time alongside two other Olympic medalists, Torah Bright and Dale Begg-Smith.

The Australian Team Chef de Mission has described this team as the “best credentialed” group of Australian winter athletes ever assembled.

Finally, Israel has put together a team for Sochi. More than half this Mediterranean country is comprised of the Negev Desert. It experiences abundant sunshine, and long, hot and dry summers. Occasionally, hot dry winds will drive in from the Arabian Desert.

The Israeli delegation to Sochi will have five athletes -- four skaters and one Alpine skier, Virgile Vandeput.

Elite Sports Unit head Gili Lustig believes ice skating has a future in Israel. "We must develop skating here," she told Haaretz. "Athletes can use the new centers, and the Russian community loves the sport.”

“Many children love the sport so this is a huge opportunity," she added.

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