#UnitedBy hope - Julian Yee
Julian Yee made his Olympic debut at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 as the first-ever Olympic figure skater from Malaysia. He hopes to inspire young athletes in his home country to pursue their dreams, no matter the obstacles.
Like many athletes, figure skater Julian Yee faced challenges while chasing his Olympic dream. As Malaysia’s first-ever figure skating Olympian, his first obstacle was trying to find a place to train for a winter sport in a tropical country.
“For one, we don’t really have the right facilities,” Yee says. “All of our ice rinks are in shopping malls, and are not meant for training – they’re meant for leisure, for fun. We not only lack the facilities, but we also don’t have many experienced coaches, because we don’t really have a history in the sport.”
Yee was often stuck asking malls to open early so he could use the rinks to practise without the crowds. Figure skating is very new to Malaysia, so it doesn’t have the exposure or support system in place that exists for other sports. But despite the lack of facilities, when it came time for Yee to compete, he felt the encouragement of his country behind him.
“I relied on support from my family and friends, but also from the general public,” he says. “The reception of the Malaysian people during the Winter Games was amazing. Almost every day there was something coming out in the newspaper, everybody was on social media showing their support, watching it on TV – it was just amazing. That was what helped me achieve my goals. It was about making the best of what we had, and it turned out to be just enough to get me where I wanted to be.”
The support of his country helped Yee work around the challenges, and encouraged him to keep pushing, even after he qualified for PyeongChang.
“To me, the Olympics are the epitome of every athlete's career,” Yee says. “I'm very lucky that I've been able to achieve that, but for me, actually getting there motivates me even further to keep pushing myself harder to see my limits and how far I can go. I also have so much respect for the other athletes around me because I know it’s not an easy journey to get there. Everyone has their own story.”
PyeongChang was Yee’s first Olympic experience, but he was surrounded by athletes who had been going to the Winter Games for years. He realised that while many of the athletes compete against one another, outside of the events, they form their own Olympic family. His positive experience spending time with some of the more seasoned athletes helped shape Yee’s own definition of Olympism.
“Olympism means different things to everyone,” he says. “Personally, I see it as everybody knowing that they have the responsibility to be a good sport. It’s about knowing to respect each other, knowing each other’s limits, what you should and should not do, and also having fun and being healthy at the same time. It’s about doing what you love, and doing that at the highest level.”
If you go for it a little bit more, keep pushing and make it over that hill, you’ll see the sunrise right after that.Julian Yee
While making it to the Olympic Games is special for every athlete, qualifying meant a lot to Yee because it allowed him to be a part of figure skating history. He sees his participation as an important step in expanding access to winter sports in tropical countries like Malaysia.
“What was really exciting about attending the Olympic Winter Games was not only getting to represent my country, but having the opportunity to put Malaysia on the figure skating map,” he says. “It was such an honour to hold the flag for my country during the Opening Ceremony. The experience was something I’ll never forget.”
Yee understands the challenges that athletes face while going after their goals, but encourages Olympic dreamers to keep trying, and to not give up too soon.
“I know there are so many obstacles,” Yee says. “But as long as you put your mind to it you can find a way, so just don’t give up. A lot of athletes I see, they give up right before they could make it. There’s so much work you’ve put in to give up right at that point, to give up is a waste. If you go for it a little bit more, keep pushing and make it over that hill, you’ll see the sunrise right after that.”