The first athlete to represent Malaysia at an Olympic Winter Games, figure skater Chew Kai Xiang, 16, is thrilled to compete at the YOG, but feels the need to please existing supporters as well as to attract new ones.
Mohamad Fadzli Johan, Malaysia’s chef de mission, is convinced that Chew’s performance at Lillehammer 2016 will be crucial in enhancing the popularity of the sport in the Southeast Asian region.
“People say you have to develop the sport, but I believe we have to develop an idol. You develop one, and then the sport will grow. Kai Xiang will be one of them. He’s got the skills, he’s got the attitude,” the chef de mission said.
“We are from a summer country, we have summer all the year. Sport has been the tool to unite everybody, we have achieved that in the traditional sports, like football and badminton, but now we have started to do winter sports for the new generations. The new generations need something new.
“The goal was to listen to the voice of the new generations, and in three years we took figure skaters and short track skaters to world competitions. We were the only Southeast Asian country to qualify for Lillehammer 2016, and in 2017 Malaysia could host the first Southeast Asian Games to include figure skating,” he said.
But for now, the idol-to-be is dealing with nerves, like any other young athlete at their Olympic debut.
“[In training I felt] nervous. I haven’t been skating for one day because of the travelling. Now, due to the time difference and the weather, because in Malaysia it’s like 36 degrees Celsius, while here it’s -1 or -2 degrees Celsius; I’m still trying to adjust,” Chew said.
The Malaysian, who started the sport after being inspired by his sister and a trip to France during which he saw snow for the first time, said his friends are organising a party in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur for Monday (15 February). “They will be watching my short program together.
“It feels stressful, because a lot of people support me and I need to work harder to show them a good result, so they won’t be disappointed,” he said.
When he carried the Malaysian flag during the opening ceremony of the Lillehammer 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games on Friday (12 February), Chew Kai Xiang represented one of the smaller delegations at the Games.
“It’s only me, my coach, my mum as a team official and the chef de mission,” Chew said.
His goal at Lillehammer 2016 is to score a personal best. Learning from the other skaters is also among his objectives.
“When I found out that I could participate in the Youth Olympic Games I was so excited, because I read that at these Games there are lots of activities, and you get to chat with the champions,” he said.
The future star of Malaysian figure skating knows he still has to grow, and with it, the size of his country’s delegation at future Olympic Winter Games.
Written by YIS / IOC EMMA LUPANO
Emma Lupano is a reporter for the Lillehammer Youth Information Service ‘YIS’. Milan-based Emma has worked at the last five Olympic Games and also covered the Innsbruck 2012 and Nanjing 2014 YOGs. A China specialist, she has worked as a freelance journalist from Beijing for four years.