KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia could win its first medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics as ice sports have raked up impressive results this year. Timesport speaks to Ice Skating Association of Malaysia vice president Tan Bee Leng on qualifying for the Winter Olympics and the 2017 Sea.
Question: Ice sports have certainly made a huge impression on Malaysia, especially with the results achieved at the Asian Winter Games (AWG) in February. What are your thoughts?
Answer: Yes, we have created history with that wonderful performance.
They have peaked at the right time and we were able to exploit the situation well.
However, we are still in the chasing pack and we have to catch up with the big three soon (China, South Korea and Japan).
It was, however, a morale booster and as our target is the 2017 Sea Games, I believe we should perform well.
Q: There is lack of exposure for the sport and yet, it is making an impact. What is the Ice Skating Association of Malaysia (ISAM) hoping to see in the near future?
A: We are very grateful to the parents of the athletes, our president (Fadzil Johan) and the committee for their fervent efforts in making this sport what it is now.
If we perform and deliver our promise, I am sure the relevant authorities will look into our needs.
We are very happy and thankful to ISN (National Sports Institute), NSC (National Sports Council) and KBS (Sports Ministry) for their strong support.
I am sure they will support in a bigger way in the near future.
Q: Julian Yee has been dubbed the best figure skater in Southeast Asia. Can you can share with us your thoughts and how this came about?
A: Julian Yee is very professional and a very hard working athlete.
He has been in the rink for 16 years and got as high as 42nd on the world rankings. We are sure he will live up to his billing.
Q: The national speed skaters made history at the AWG. What contributed to the success and what are their individual strengths that helped them there?
A: The speed skaters made history by making the finals of the AWG. It’s extremely difficult to make it to the finals as we have world powerhouses such as China, Korea and Japan to contend with.
We had a very well-oiled team and they stuck to the game plan perfectly throughout the semi-finals and the final.
Each of them knew exactly what they were in for and this assisted a lot in making it to the final round.
One of the athletes, Ariff (Rasydan Mohamad Fadzil) competed despite an injury and surgery to the hand.
The other is team captain Wong De-Vin, who forms an integral part of the team as he is the fastest skater in Malaysia.
Another is Hazim (Shahrum), who lives and trains in Australia, but before the AWG, he made a big sacrifice by taking off from his studies and coming back to Malaysia for two months to train with the team.
Khairil (Ridhwan) is the other member who has settled well with the rest of the team despite his busy schedule with SPM examinations at the end of the year.
Vincent Chan has also made so many changes to his character and personality to make a difference to the team.
Q: For the first time in Sea Games history, ice sports will be featured with speed skating as the “highlight” sport in Kuala Lumpur. What are your thoughts?
A: For me it’s an honour and a very proud moment to be highlighted.
It will naturally put pressure on you but we all work well under pressure as it inspires us to work harder, perform and deliver the best.
Q: What is the Sea Games target for both speed skating and figures?
A: Our target is three gold medals.
Q: How would you describe the athletes who have been chosen to represent Malaysia at the Sea Games?
A: We have a small pool of athletes who are very passionate and dedicated in training. Their love for the sport is one of the main reasons why we picked them and so far, they have delivered with passion and great performance.
Q: If anything could be changed about the support received for ice sports, what would you like it to be?
A: I would love to have our own ice rinks, one for figure skating and speed skating with full specifications as well as to organise competitions where the athletes compete for prize money.
Q: Aside from the Sea Games, most of the athletes are also trying to qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. How is that progressing?
A: We are trying to qualify first for the Winter Olympics and we need to compete in a few more competitions, after which we might just do it.
Q: Do you think Malaysia could potentially see their first medal at the Winter Olympics soon and why?
A: Everyone has an equal chance to win. Once we qualify, we will start working on how to win the first gold medal and our target is to win it in eight years.