As figure skating fans tuned into Worlds last month, they saw the result of hundreds of thousands of hours dedicated to training. To the figure skaters who were watching, they know just how difficult it is to reach that level. Young girls and boys will dream of the world stage and their parents attempt to navigate through the figure skating world to help them reach their goals. In Canada, we are fortunate to have rinks in most towns and programs dedicated to figure skating. Our coaches are Nationally Certified and we have a strong federation which helps us to navigate the international waters. It’s not always easy, sometimes hockey gets all the prime ice and scheduling is difficult. Occasionally strong skaters feel the need to find challenges outside of their local rink and pursue competitive development elsewhere. Now imagine you are from another country where ice skating is relatively new to their culture. Imagine training on ice crowded with public skaters, with sub-standard dimensions alongside coaches who have very limited experience at an International level. It isn’t only talent, or fortunate circumstances that get skaters to that World Championship.
The World met Julian Yee at the 2016 World Championships when he became the first Malaysian figure skater to qualify for the Long program. Julian quickly began to gain international attention for 2016 his on- ice personality, explosive jumps and unique background. It wasn’t an easy road to being a top competitor in the world, Julian’s home country Malaysia only gained ISU recognition six years ago. Starting skating at four years old, Julian began to compete recreationally. As he says, coming from the culture and background he does, recreation quickly turns into full commitment. Training in Malaysia meant a lot of sacrifices. Ice is not easy to come by and it meant a lot of early mornings. He remembers getting up at 2 am to get ice time. He doesn’t regret it at all. His attitude is simple…. “If you sacrifice, it pays off”. Julian knows that skating in Malaysia is a privilege which taught him discipline, motivation and time management.
Julian attributes his Mom as his driving force to be disciplined and make the sacrifices you need to become a top athlete. Coming from an environment where you don’t have proper ice, time and resources are limited. Julian said in his development years there was still a lot of good training. He made use of every opportunity in Malaysia but he found he was lacking the detail and refinement that athletes who train in North America have. Julian’s mom knew that the next step for Julian was to train in North America. A few different factors came into play when he was deciding on a training center. Coaching, training opportunities and the cost of living were the primary decision makers. Julian knew Michael Hopfes at the Mariposa School of Skating. He tried Mariposa and a few other locations before deciding to stay in Barrie, Ontario. He says what keeps him at Mariposa is that the environment is different than other rinks. It feels like family for him now at Mariposa and the environment makes him comfortable to push through to his next goals.
On the heels of his 2018 World performance (enter video clip here) Julian is competing in Malaysian Nationals. Yet another challenge he faces. Most athletes on the world circuit are beginning the transition phase but Malaysia’s skating calendar is different. It will be a quick transition for Julian as he prepares to qualify at Oberstdorf, Germany for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Julian and coaches Michael Hopfes, Doug Leigh and Michelle Leigh are going to begin to push all quads including the flip and lutz. Home to many quads before, Julian says it’s time to “Go Big, or Go Home.” Julian will use the next few months to train with David Islam, Kelly Johnson and Paul Matheson to refine the details of his skating . Janice Morgan has been building more complex spins and is now working on training the consistency.
Julian hopes to begin to make a name for himself on the international scene and gain points in the Program Component scores. Julian is a crowd pleaser and he feeds off that energy “Hearing the cheering feels great, it motivates me to give more, so I get more” he says. He knows gaining points is an uphill battle and he’s well prepared to make the sacrifices. He also knows you get out of the sport what you put in. His advice for young skaters training in difficult conditions is that “It’s always possible to get things done, if you sacrifice. In the end it pays off.”