The closest figure skater Julian Zhi Jie Yee will come to the podium at the Pyeongchang Olympics will probably be when the 20-year-old Malaysian walks past it on his way somewhere else.

Nobody thinks he has a chance.

Not that it matters MUCH.

Yee already won just by qualifying for the Winter Games, the first figure skater to make it from his Asian nation _ one known more for its picturesque beaches, beautiful rainforests and warm climate than the cold, glasslike sheet of ice where he plies his trade.

“I am part of the first Malaysian team at an Olympic Winter Games and it is really special for us,” said Yee, who proudly carried his nation’s flag in Friday night’s opening ceremony. “Our whole team is proud to go out there and show our flag.

"It is exciting for us to show that Malaysia has also winter sport athletes.”

AP Photo/Michael Sohn

Yee began skating about eight years ago in a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur, but he truly began taking the sport seriously when he spent time in Pyeongchang in 2009 as part of South Korea’s government-funded “Actualizing the Dream” project. The program was designed to give athletes from southeast Asian nations the opportunity to compete in winter sports that they might not have at home.

Yee returned home from the camp and kept working, mostly in ice rinks where he was the only figure skater. But by 2015, he realized that he needed to surround himself with better coaches _ not to mention better facilities and competition _ so he started a crowdfunding page to help with the move.

 

He raised about $13,000 and picked the Canadian province of Ontario for his new home base.

Yee became the first Malaysian figure skater at the world champions when he finished 21st in the men’s event two years ago, and he was eighth at Four Continents last year. Then he returned home to take gold at the Southeast Asian Games in front of friends and family in Kuala Lumpur.

Yee told reports it was a “great moment to show my home country that the sport is growing,” but it will likely pale in comparison to when he steps on the Olympic ice for the men’s program.

“I’m ready to come and compete,” he said.