Julian comes from a family of ice skating enthusiasts, though it came about by happy chance.
“We all started skating as a weekly family hobby. I was four. My mum was at Sunway Pyramid – she was looking down and saw the skaters, and wanted to learn. So she thought, ‘Okay, let’s bring the kids as well.’”
He describes the early days of lessons as a lot of running around on the ice, with his first recreational competition at 5.
When asked if he knew from an early age that figure skating would become such a huge part of his life, he replied, “No, people didn’t really go, “Wow, this guy has got huge potential” but I just kept going at it, and I think it just grew on me,”
Julian embraced life as an athlete, and from 2004 to 2014, trained under the Head Coach at Pyramid Ice. He racks up to 27 hours of training a week – training in the mornings before school, and at nights after completing his homework, up to 6 days a week.
“I had to give up a lot of sleep and free time, including hanging out with my friends, because I’d have to train. But it’s all about balance. This sport has taught me that if you want something badly, you just accept that there are things you’d have to sacrifice to get there,”
“Competing at an international level for the first time was a real eye-opener for me. Seeing these world-class skaters out there was really motivating, and I realised that I had to really push myself if I wanted to really compete with them and put up a fight.”
It was only three years ago in 2014, after he finished secondary school, that Julian realised that competing at the Olympics was no longer a dream but a possibility. He started looking overseas for coaches and began short training stints lasting no longer than a few months in Canada.
When asked if he ever considered migrating overseas to train full time when he was younger, he maintains that he didn’t want to give up school.
He credits his mother, Irene, who has been her son’s biggest supporter and advocate, with keeping him grounded. “She always said that I could always pursue my degree later in life, but there was no way I can ever go back and do my SPM when I’m 25! It’s just not the same.”
Julian has completed a full year as a student in the American Degree Transfer Programme (ADTP) at Sunway University under the Sports Scholarship, one of the many disbursed by the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation. Sunway University was the only institution to offer Julian a scholarship for figure skating.
Director of Student LIFE, Lee Siok Ping, expressed that they are always on the lookout for synergistic elements that can be leveraged to help students:
“We have an ice skating rink right here in Sunway City, and we thought ‘How can we make this work?’”
The Student LIFE is a student services department that oversees all aspects of the Sunway student experience, including Student Development and Engagement, Sports, Scholarships and Alumni Relations.
“A lot of athletes in Sunway University choose the ADTP because of its flexibility in allowing you to customise your degree, and also gives you the option to defer semesters to fit in times when training ramps up or when a competition is around the corner,” -Lee Siok Ping added.
When it was announced that Julian had made history by qualifying for the Winter Olympics, it was undoubtedly the highest point in his life.
“I never thought we would even get through the World Championships, much less the Olympics. A lot of it was small steps and we just kept working towards it. There’s nothing to lose and if we don’t get it, at least we tried.”
When asked if he didn’t become a figure skater, he cheekily completed this writer’s sentence asking “What would you be instead?”
He only gave it a moment’s thought, before answering-
“I would still do some sort of sport. Sports keeps me busy, but in a good way. Without it, I’d feel like I was wasting time.”
Fast Facts (Click here)
- Over 250 athletes are actively representing Sunway University in 20 competitive games.
- In 2017 alone, there are 50 students under the Sports Scholarship, and up to 30 such scholarships are awarded per year.
- The Sports Scholarship was first awarded in 2003, with over 267 scholarships given out to date
- How do you get a scholarship? – To be a state player who has participated in MSSM tournaments or its equivalent, verified by the state sports association or a national player
- What does the scholarship cover? – Tuition fees, sponsorship of competition entry fees, accomdation, transport and meal allowance when athletes represent Sunway in external competitions, covering some coaches’ fees, sports workshops
- How do athletes give back? – Actively participate in internal and external competitions, serve 20 community service hours a year, which includes conducting lessons, assist in organising sports events, conduct sports clinics, volunteering in community services