Figure skater Chew Kai Xiang looks set to make history as he will become Malaysia’s first-ever representative at a Winter Youth Olympic Games when he competes at Lillehammer 2016.
No athlete from the Asian nation has ever participated at a Winter Youth Olympics or Winter Olympics.
Malaysia’s spot in Lillehammer had originally been given to Julian Yee Zhi Jie after he finished 19th at the World Junior Championships in Talinn, Estonia, but 17-year-old Yee is now too old, handing Chew the chance to take part in the event.
“I’m very happy to get this opportunity,” the 16-year-old said.
“I know I can’t get a medal but I will do my best there.”
Chew, the country’s second-ranked figure skater, will go up against 15 other competitors when he takes to the ice in Lillehammer, with the event itself due to run from February 12 to 21.
He has already opted to take a year out of studying in favour of training in Osaka, Japan to hone his preparations for the event in the Norwegian town, which staged the 1994 Winter Olympic Games.
Chew is also bidding to become Malaysia’s first-ever Winter Olympian as he is aiming to qualify for Pyeongchang 2018.
“It's really hard as I stopped studying for one year to train in Japan,” he added.
“I train in the morning, then I go for (Japanese) language classes for three hours before I train again at night so it's a very tight schedule.
“But I need to do this to qualify for the Olympics.”
Chew competing in Lillehammer has also been heralded by Olympic Council of Malaysia President and former head of the Commonwealth Games Federation Tunku Imran, who hopes it will be the start of further participation from Malaysian athletes at future editions of the Winter Olympics and Winter Youth Olympics.
“A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step and in the short period of time since ice skating began here, we have a qualifier for the Winter Youth Olympics and it bodes well for the sport,” he said.
“It's a very demanding sport and the athlete himself has a taken a year off from school to fulfil his dream.
“I take my hat off to him and also to give some recognition to Julian Yee, who actually did qualify on behalf of Malaysia though unfortunately he's now over-aged."
The Games in Lillehammer are expected to attract around 1,100 athletes from 205 countries, participating in 70 events.