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Malaysia’s Julian Yee with his high-powered support team.
Figure skating highlights Olympic spirit – on and off the ice

17 Feb 2018
Gangneung, Korea, February 17, 2018: If ever one sport personifies the Olympic spirit then look no further than figure skating. Not only is figure skating a combination of sporting prowess and artistry, it also appeals to all ages with its music and spectacle – and brings out the most generous attributes of audience and athletes alike.

Refreshingly, the spectators don’t care about flags or nationality. The fans are true fans of the sport as a whole and of all the athletes, though naturally they have their favourites. This was very much in evidence during the two-day men’s figure skating event, for the short programme  on Friday and the free skate on Saturday, culminating in a Japanese 1-2 finish for Yuzuru Hanyu and Shoma Uno.

Whenever a skater fell on one of his jumps, the audience applauded – not because it benefited a rival but simply to serve as encouragement to the stricken skater. When the same skater nailed his next jump, the applause was extra loud to acknowledge the recovery and strength of character.

Some of the competitors needed this support, too, especially when they were from a far-away country with not many followers inside Gangneung Ice Arena. After a couple of mistakes in the opening minute of a four and a half minute programme, the ice can seem a very lonely and unforgiving place from which there is no escape, while one minute can feel like one year.

After his short programme on Friday, Malaysia’s Olympic debutant Julian Yee described figure skating fans as “awesome” as they cheered all competitors, no matter from which country they came. The athletes, too, seem a close bunch, with plenty of smiles and camaraderie off the ice in what is a fiercely competitive sport.

Their rival is themselves, they say, not other competitors, and they genuinely seem pleased to congratulate another skater on his performance, even if they themselves have had a bad day in the office. Michael Martinez of the Philippines, a veteran of Sochi 2014, was joined from the South East Asia region in men’s figure skating this time by Yee of Malaysia.

When asked how it felt to have a fellow SEA region representative from a tropical country in an ice sport at the Winter Olympics, Michael replied: “I feel very proud about this – and proud of Julian, too.” The figure skating still has the ice dance and women’s competition to come – and, be rest assured, that the best of the Olympic spirit will be on display again, on and off the ice.
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