Images: Julian Yee
September 2017 ended on a sweet note – a young lad by the name of Julian Yee Zhi-Jie
qualified for the 2018 Winter Olympics
in the Men’s Figure Skating category, making him the first ever Malaysian to qualify
for that event.
The news came as a surprise for Malaysians, since everyone is aware that we are living in a tropical country where there is no snow around (the fake snow house in Genting Highlands doesn't count).
“A lot of emotions ran through my mind when I heard the announcement. I was in shock.
The first thing I said to myself was “Yes! Finally, the time has come and I pulled through.” All the years of hard work and dedication finally paid off
,” Julian told Rojak Daily
The prestigious sporting event will take place at Pyeongchang, South Korea from 9 to 25 February 2018. We’re keeping our fingers crossed and pray that Julian will make Malaysia proud on the world stage.
But before achieving arguably the biggest highlight of his young career, the 20-year-old skater had to endure a lot of challenges and obstacles just to get where he is today.
In this exclusive interview with Rojak Daily
, Julian shares his highs and lows throughout his journey as a national figure skater.
From Hobby to Full-Time Career
For many of us, our hobbies are something that we enjoy doing our free time and may not necessarily turn out to be a career. But for Julian, it was a different story.
“One day, my mom was at Sunway Pyramid when she saw a young boy spinning on the ice rink
. She was intrigued by his moves so she decided to learn it herself and brought along my brothers and I to learn it together. I was four years old at that time. Let’s just say, since that day, the rest is history.”
Julian enjoyed ice-skating as a hobby and eventually fell in love with it, and he decided one day to make it a full-time career.
He entered his first competition – Skate Malaysia, a recreational competition at the age of five!
It’s Not a Smooth-Skating Trip to The Top
Behind every success comes an inspirational back story. One that not many people may know and sometimes, it could be a cold, icy, and lonely journey.
“When I entered competitions, we were often looked down by other competitors
since Malaysia isn’t well known in the figure skating world. It was a rough journey to get people to notice that our country actually has potential in this sport.”
Julian pointed out that it in the early stages, he learnt about the sport through a lot of trial and error.
“Malaysia is fairly new to this sport (figure skating) therefore there’s not much people with expertise in this field. I made many mistakes throughout the learning process, which ended up costing more time and money.”
Julian feels grateful for all the sacrifices his family has made for him, especially their time and money that was spent on his training fees, coaching and equipment.
But now, since he has qualified into the Winter Olympics, there might be more financial setbacks that could porentially prevent him from reaching his ultimate goal.
Julian told Rojak Daily
at the time of interview that he’s currently training in Barrie, Ontario, Canada on and off for the past two years due to the lack of proper facilities and experienced coaches in Malaysia.
That forced him to train overseas, and it can be really costly.
“I have been training for short stints in China, South Korea, and Canada as I cannot afford proper long-term training,”
This has prompted him to set up his own GoFundMe
account where he aims to raise about CAD60,000 (RM 202,974.79).
Is the government doing anything to help our Olympic skater?
Well according to Julian, this particular sport is still developing in Malaysia and is unknown to many. "Since it’s not a core sport in the country, I do not receive sufficient funds from the authorities.
One of my aims is to promote the sport and put my country on the Figure Skating map.”
In order to give a world-class performance at the Winter Olympics, Julian needs to be in tip top shape and receive the best training.
So, if you’d like to help Julian to realise his dream, you can donate here
He’s Got The Brains and The Brawns
We were intrigued to know if Julian is currently pursuing his studies on the side and boy, we were very impressed by the dedication this fellow Malaysian has.
“I have already completed one year of studies
at Sunway University Malaysia, and will be transferring over to Canada to further my studies. I’m on a gap year and in between my transfer process and I really hope I’d be able to continue my studies right after the Winter Olympics. I'm planning to major in Management
Prior to his tertiary studies, Julian had to balance what may seem like something almost impossible for any teenager. He was the school’s head prefect and house captain
so he had to really emphasise on his time management.
“I've also had to balance my studies and skating as I was a full-time student in high school.”
Although Julian is only 20 years old, he knows what he wants to do in the future, and that includes making the country proud.
“I really do hope that in the future, I would be able to give back to this sport in Malaysia and even South East Asia
. I want to share my knowledge and help guide the future generations and teach them a quicker path to success so that they don’t have to make the same mistakes I did while learning.”
The Secret Ingredients To Making A Graceful Figure Skater
Figure skating may look fun and easy, but in reality, it’s actually not. It takes years of hard work, perseverance, dedication and countless hours of training.
“Figure skating is a sport that compromises of so many different aspects of other sports. We require the speed of a speed skater, the balance of a gymnast, the poise of a ballerina/ballerino
, the agility of a dancer
and on top of all of that, we have to make it look easy.”
“Learning figure skating can be fun and a nice challenge and it isn't too difficult but to perfect the art of figure skating is something on another level of difficulty.”
So, What Does Julian Do In His Free Time?
Well, you’re in for a surprise because Julian actually enjoys cooking and experimenting on new recipes
, not only can he skate and win medals, he can also skate into your stomachs with his cooking. #HusbandMaterial (kidding).
Apart from figure skating, he also likes skiing and snowboarding
but since Malaysia obviously does not have any snow, he tries to play futsal
when he has the chance.
Some of you die-hard supporters of Malaysia’s first male SEA Games figure skating gold medalist would know by now that Julian has his own YouTube channel where he shares his vlogs
“I have taken an interest in vlogging because I find that it would be quite cool and nice to share my experiences with other people,” Julian told Rojak Daily
When asked whether he will be vlogging his Winter Olympic experience, he says he plans to do so but training and competing is his priority so he will only vlog when he has some free time.
We’re sure that thousands of your supporters are hoping to see that Winter Olympic vlog materialise, so no pressure, Julian! You can view his vlogs here
Julian hopes that he will make it into the finals in the 2018 Winter Olympics and aims to keep the Jalur Gemilang flying high at international skating events
to help raise awareness that Malaysia also has a very talented bunch in that arena.
He also encourages more Malaysians to join the sport, be it figure skating or ice skating, to help contribute to this developing sport in our country.
“I feel that we have got a lot of talented up and coming skaters but it would always be great if we could attract more people in to this sport to build a bigger pool (of skaters) and foundation for it.”
Well Julian, we wish you the best of luck and we are looking forward to see the Jalur Gemilang
at the Winter Olympics next year. Malaysia boleh