Feel the Ice-Cold Passion


As published in the New Straits Times, Travel Times, 31 March 2008, and NST Travel Online.

Temperatures here never drop below 26ºC, so who would have thought that Malaysians can get so fired up about ice skating? Ardent figure-skaters offer MAJIDAH HASHIM a zillion reasons to keep on skating.

Story and Pictures by MAJIDAH HASHIM

THE two girls glide effortlessly over the ice at the Sunway Pyramid Ice Skating Rink, weaving in and out between the other skaters who shuffle awkwardly over the slippery surface.

“I love ice skating so much I gave away my inline skates!” says Laura Joy Phillips, nine. Meera Chelliah, 14, agrees. “The first time you try skating, you’ll fall. The second time you try it, you’ll fall in love!”

Time and time again, they attempt a stunt or two. Spins. Axels. Jumps. I watch them with envy as I am pretty much convinced that I am going to end up being carried out of the ice rink.

Fear of Falling

Oh yes, I readily admit to being afraid of falling. Who wouldn’t be? Besides the pain, naturally, there’s the unnerving knowledge that an audience of curious mall shoppers is looking down from a safe distance, practically hoping for one of those unintentionally but spectacular falls. I should know. I used to be one of them.

So how does one handle it? The younger skaters share with me their secret: Laugh it off.

Kasih Leia Ixora Azhar, 10, who enjoys learning new tricks on the ice, laughs loudly whenever she falls. She laughs again as she gets up, and again, as she tries the new trick one more time.

I learn that you really have to see the funny side of every situation. “The funniest part is watching people fall on their bums!” says Sarah Arina Tan, nine, laughing gleefully. Naomi Haeger, 12, adds: “It’s even funnier to see them go home with wet bums!”

“When you fall, don’t cry,” advises Chew Sze Chyi, a 10-year-old girl half my height.

The older skaters won’t lie about it either. They fall too. In fact, they say it’s quite expected that skaters will fall, from time to time, especially when practising new manoeuvres.

“Don’t be afraid of falling and don’t worry about people looking at you when you fall,” says Wong Jo-Yi, 14. “Sometimes when I feel like I have almost landed a jump, I fall. It’s important to practise and skate confidently.”

“Believe it or not, we also fall, even when we are just standing on the ice,” says Ching Siau Chian, 16. She started skating at the age of seven and has competed in regional and international ice skating competitions.

As I try not to collide with the other skaters, Siau Chian practises difficult moves like double axels and triple jumps. “Keep it up and never give up!” she says encouragingly.

Confidence Building

Mirren Kaur, 14, stresses that ice skating can boost self-confidence and instil a sense of responsibility. In the beginning, her mother held her hands while on the ice and often took a fall with her when she was afraid to let go.

Now, Mirren takes part in figure skating competitions and regards them as a personal challenge. There’s a feeling of excitement, she says, when her blades touch the ice.

“The stunts look impossible to perform at first, but I do it eventually,” says Kavitha Gnanasambatham, 10. “You must not give up easily.

Stella de Feraudy, 12, says ice skating is really a fun way to sharpen your sense of balance.

Bryan Tan, 12, has worries of a different kind. What if no one applauds when he does his jumps and spins? What if his boots break?

But ice skating has given him a quiet confidence. His coach, Chan Wei Kin, says Bryan was difficult to teach in the beginning but he is great now.

Competitive Spirit

Figure skating in Malaysia is actually a tremendously competitive sport and skaters, parents, coaches and fans (oh yes, there are fans) take it very, very seriously.

Just how seriously? I had arranged to take photographs of some skaters at 8am on Saturday, and most of them were already practising on the ice when I arrived.

Why such early hours, you might wonder. It’s because a competing skater’s routine is as hush-hush as the combination to a vault of gold.

Skater-mum Irene Cheow says they have been on the ice since 7am. Two of her sons, Ryan Yee, 14, and Julian Yee, 11, will be competing in the 4th Malaysia National Figure Skating Championship next month and they are busy fussing over music and routines.

Julian, famous for his gravity-defying cantilever manoeuvre and humorous routines, is tight-lipped about what he’s doing for the Nationals. “Come watch me and I’ll show you!” he boasts.

His coach, Harry Janto Leo, describes him as a real entertainer who likes being challenged.

Ryan, who’s competing in the highest male skater category this year, is just as enigmatic. “It’s a secret! If I tell you, it won’t be a secret anymore right?” Creativity is boundless where the brothers are concerned. Ryan says his one regret is not being able to play the guitar while skating… or perhaps he will find a way to.

Even eight-year-old Aneeta Lingam, one of the event’s youngest competitors, hesitates to tell me too much. She wakes up early every weekend to train. “My coach says it should remain a secret,” she says shyly. Her coach, Shafinaz Hashim, throws hints about her potential though. “She could be a future rising star.”

Over 60 skaters in nine categories will take part in this year’s championship, ranging from pre-preliminary to junior levels. The competition runs April 10-11, 2009 at the Sunway Pyramid Ice Skating Rink in Bandar Sunway, Petaling Jaya.

Fast Facts

Sunway Pyramid Ice Skating Rink is open daily from 9am to 8pm (Sunday to Friday) and 9am to 10pm (Saturdays). Private, semi-private and group skating lessons are available. For further enquiries, contact: Pyramid Ice, LL3, Sunway Pyramid, Jalan PJS 11/15, Bandar Sunway, 46150 Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Tel: 03-7492 6800. Email jasonc@sunway.com.my


One Response to “Feel the Ice-Cold Passion”

  1. 1 matt

    This blog’s great!! Thanks :).

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