Figure skater Julian Yee among first Malaysian athletes at Winter Olympics

  • Lifestyle
  • Friday, 16 Feb 2018

Yee said that watching Samsung's animated film made him relive euphoric moments when all his hard work finally paid off.

All hail Julian Yee! Samsung has made a short feature film as a special tribute to Malaysia’s first ever figure skater who rose from obscurity to world fame. The animated film entitled Julian And His Magical Skates tells the story of the 20-year-old rising star’s journey to the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics.

The film is also a reiteration of Samsung’s Do What You Can’t message to inspire others to break barriers, fuel meaningful progress and realise their dreams. The video was fully recorded and illustrated with the Samsung Galaxy Note8 and its S Pen, and further cements Samsung’s progress in innovation and of doing the impossible.

“We’re reaching out to this generation of doers, people who go out and make things happen. When the opportunity to support our first national figure skater Julian Yee came about, we jumped at the chance because Julian is a prime example of what it means to Do What You Can’t,” said Yoonsoo Kim, president of Samsung Malaysia Electronics.

“Against all odds, Julian is today an Olympic contender in a sport that isn’t even common in Malaysia. And for that we’re very proud of him. We hope others will see him as an inspiration to achieve greater things. And just like how Julian was able to achieve what many thought was unrealistic, we decided to remain in that spirit, and produce a beautiful and creative video from a mobile device.”

Yoonsoo Kim (left), president of Samsung Malaysia Electronics, presenting figure skater Yee with a gift.

Elaine Soh, chief marketing officer, Samsung Malaysia Electronics, explained that Do What You Can’t – a campaign concept launched in 2016 during the Olympic Games – gives visibility to Samsung as a brand. The brand, she added, wanted “emotional storytelling” and a lot of great talents such as Julian who “had lots of barriers and hurdles and yet he made it!” More so, Yee is from a tropical country like Malaysia.

Chan Woei Hern, executive creative director of Ensemble World-wide Malaysia, was commissioned to produce the film. He said: “The best technologies are often the simplest ones. Like a pair of skates or the S Pen. Two seemingly ordinary tools but in the right hands or in Julian’s case, feet, they can capture people’s attention and imagination.”

After hearing Yee’s story, he said: “We wanted to get into the mood of Do What You Can’t as well. And that meant scripting, sketching and creating the story entirely from scratch with a Galaxy Note8 and S Pen.” He said that there would also be a release of a behind-the-scenes video soon and this, too, was shot on a Galaxy Note8.

The film was shown for the first time on Feb 5 at Element Kuala Lumpur where Yee, his mother Irene Cheow and his coach Michael Hopfes were in attendance.

Yee also shared his inspiring story of being a boy who achieved what he thought he couldn’t. He had a dream many thought was impossible – to be a world-class figure skater. Today, he has skated his way into the nation’s history, becoming the first ever Malaysian to compete in not only the world’s leading sporting event, but in a sport that is rare in Malaysia.

Yee said: “Honestly, it blew my mind and I was holding back (the tears). The only time I cried was when I qualified for the Winter Olympics. (Tears) came out like a waterfall. I could not control it.”

Watching the film made Yee relive those moments. The film, he said, was “really fun to watch”. He added, “It made me feel like a kid again watching Playhouse Disney with all the animation. The ending was the icing on the cake.”

Cheow said, “The film is amazing. It tells (of) our journey. There were times when he (Yee) felt nobody was behind him except for the family. We believed in him and pushed him. I’m really happy the story is translated into a short film, and it’s really touching.”

Cheow added that, in reality, there are no magical skates. “The phrase represents the force, family and support that give him the ‘magic’ and the will to push on.”

At four, Yee started skating with his brothers by simply following his mother’s instructions. Initially, he started skating once a week as a hobby. Then, at five, he took part in his first skating competition. He began skating twice a week, then thrice and over time, every day.

His passion for skating grew as he understood the sport a little more, he said. A lot of kids would play football in the heat while he would be in an air-conditioned room, skating.

In the early years of skating, Yee said, people were still “close-minded and thought skating was for fun and not a sport”. He said, “It took some time for people to open up their minds to see that outside of Malaysia, there were other sports besides football, swimming and badminton.

“Once they were more open, everybody was very supportive and surprised to hear about a figure skater from Malaysia and then they would say, That’s awesome. Keep it up!”

Yee’s coach Michael Hopfes said: “It took a lot of hard work to get where he is today. He’s dedicated to the sport. “For the Olympic Winter Games, we’ll try to work on his performance, arms and looks to score points. A lot of choreography will be involved.”

Yee’s previous biggest achievement was being the first and only Malaysian to qualify for the finals at the World Figure Skating Championships two years in a row. He ranks 37th in the world for figure skating.

(L-R) Chan, Yee and Soh at the screening of the movie in early February.

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