KUALA LUMPUR: There may be no thick snow-capped mountains here, but that hasn’t stopped US-based Jeffrey Webb from placing Malaysia on the world map.
He is the first Malaysian to have qualified for the Winter Olympic Games in alpine skiing in Pyeongchang, South Korea, from Feb 9-25.
The teenager, who is of mixed parentage – Malaysian mother and American father – has sealed his Olympic tickets in two alpine skiing events – slalom and giant slalom.
He managed to secure enough points to qualify for giant slalom late last year and made the cut for slalom in March after a commendable show at the Sapporo Asian Games in Japan, where he emerged as the best skier from the South-East Asian region.
Jeffrey, 18, is all pumped up about making his Winter Olympic debut.
“I picked up skiing when I was five years old. I can’t believe that my childhood dream to represent Malaysia at the Olympics has become a reality,” said Jeffrey, who is back in Malaysia for his summer break after spending time at ski racing camps in Timberline, Mount Hood in Oregon.
He has been part of the Mission Ridge Ski Team in Wenatchee, Washington, since young and his coaches are Ryan Shorter and Roger Taggart.
His parents – Steve Webb and Jasmin Webb – have also been his pillars of strength.
“Qualifying for the Games itself is a big achievement. I just want to enjoy myself and give my best at the Winter Olympics,” said the Under-16 Slalom Finals champion in Washington in 2014.
Now that he has qualified for Pyeongchang, Jeffrey admitted that the hard work is just beginning.
“The training is harder. I also spend longer hours in training.
“I’m on my summer break here but I’m either at the gymnasium or doing some kind of agility workouts everyday. It helps build my strength,” he said, adding that a back injury last year nearly derailed his hopes.
“Skiing on the snow-capped slopes can be treacherous. I hurt my back last season but I was determined to bounce back.
Luckily I managed to get back on my feet after undergoing therapy. It’s still challenging and difficult but I enjoy it.
For a boy who has been skiing for almost all his life, “I just love the snow,” said Jeffrey.
“I’m passionate about this sport and nothing brings me joy than to keep the Malaysian flag flying high.”
Figure-skater Julian Yee made the cut last week to become the second Malaysian to qualify for the Winter Olympics.