JULIAN Yee is facing one of the biggest weeks of his career, as the 20-year-old bids to become Malaysia’s first Winter Olympian.
Yee, a figure skating gold medallist at the Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur last month, will compete at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, looking to secure one of the final six spots for the Pyeongchang Games.
The first Malaysian to participate at the World Figure Skating Championships, and the first man to win SEA Games figure skating gold, Yee could this week seal what would arguably be his most prestigious first: Olympic qualification.
Only the top six skaters at the Nebelhorn Trophy – from nations yet to qualify for the Winter Olympics – will book the remaining spots.
“It would definitely mean everything to me to be able to qualify and be the first Malaysian to compete at the Winter Olympics,” Yee told Asian Correspondent.
“I think it would be a great achievement, not only for me, but also for the nation as we would be progressing our way in winter sports.
“Knowing that Malaysia is a tropical country, and that we are able to excel in winter sports, really shows that anything is possible and that Malaysia is on the right path to a bright future in this forte.
“I also want to put my nation, even more so, the Southeast Asian region on the figure skating map and show the world that we have potential in our region.
“I believe that the region has great talent and hard-working individuals. We would just have to guide them on the correct path and help the future generations to succeed.
“I think that we are all working together to promote this sport in the region in hopes of developing the sport and become a top contender in the future.”
The five-times Malaysian senior champion, who finished fourth at the Nebelhorn Trophy last year, has been preparing for the competition in Canada.
His routine involves training on the ice for up to five hours a day on weekdays and up to two hours on Saturdays, with Sunday his rest day.
Yee, who spends 8am to 4pm most days at the rink, also takes part in at least one hour of training each day away from the ice – a combination of cardio, strengthening, stretching, ballet and dance.
“I think that preparations towards the Nebelhorn Trophy are going as planned,” he said.
“So far I’ve been able to tweak my programs and learn from mistakes to ready myself for this competition. Overall, I’m doing my best to get ready for this competition.
“My ultimate goal would be to qualify for the Winter Olympics – and I hope to do so by putting on a good showing at the Nebelhorn Trophy.
“I would also love to be able to contribute and help develop figure skating in the Southeast Asian region.
“I hope it would be possible to do so, and maybe one day SEA would be on par with the Asian powerhouses such as Japan and China, and that we would be able to join them at their level.”
Figure skating was one of three winter sports, along with ice hockey and short track speed skating, to make its debut at last month’s SEA Games.
And Yee, who was a dominant winner in the men’s event, said he was “shocked” by the “amazing” level of support for his sport in Malaysia.
“Being able to add a gold medal to the nation’s medal tally on home ground was definitely a memorable experience,” he said.
“It was not easy to get through that event, as it was on home ground and there was added pressure to win the gold.
“I was so shocked – in a good way – to see the amount of supporters present at the venue.
“They were amazing and played a huge role in making this Games a success.
“I felt that the supporters were giving a lot of encouragement not only to the local skaters but also to all the competitors, and that was a great atmosphere.”
The nations to have already secured their spots in the men’s figure skating competition for Pyeongchang are: Japan, United States, China, Spain, Canada, Russia, Israel, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Latvia, Australia, Kazakhstan, France, Czech Republic and Germany.
The Nebelhorn Trophy begins at the Eissportzentrum in Oberstdorf, Germany, on Wednesday and concludes on Saturday.