Malaysian duo dreams of curling into Winter Olympics

For most Malaysians, curling is a strange sport where teams sweep the ice to guide granite stones to the target area.

The Southeast Asian country’s exposure to the sport is limited to what we see on television, either during the Winter Olympics or the world championships.

One person who hopes to see the sport sweeping across the country is Irene Cheow, who organises curling classes using do-it-yourself (DIY) equipment.

“My fellow coach (Melissa Toh) is the DIY queen. We did some research and found out that we could make the stones ourselves,” said Cheow.

“The competition stones cost RM5,000 each, and we need 16 of them for a game.

“But now, we have found some cheaper, non-competition stones which we use for training.”

Cheow was introduced to the sport five years ago, via a coach from Hong Kong – C.K. Chan. But he left for Bangkok, Thailand, at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and took all the equipment with him.

That was why Toh had to make stones for their training sessions, when activities resumed after lockdown.

Despite the lack of funding, Cheow is determined to popularise curling among Malaysians.

She is no stranger to the impossible, as her son, Julian Yee, is Malaysia’s most famous ice-skater, having competed in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and in four world championships.

Toh and her fellow curling enthusiasts now have a new home in Pavilion Bukit Jalil. The rink operator there has helped them out by buying new equipment.

Since moving to Bukit Jalil, Cheow and Toh conduct training on Thursdays.

“The response has been encouraging,” said Cheow, a former president of the Malaysia Ice Skating Federation.

“We had two training sessions at Pavilion Bukit Jalil with 11, and eight participants. Hopefully, we can get more to join us in the coming weeks.”

In curling, the objective is to move the granite stones as close to a target’s centre as possible. Curlers must have a combination of physical stamina, strategy, and precision.

It is these characteristics that Cheow feels will appeal to Malaysians. Plus, there are no age restrictions.

She also hopes to reach out to lawn bowlers, as that sport is similar to curling.

“We welcome everybody … it would be great to get some lawn bowlers to join us,” said Cheow.

“Both sports require strategy and precision to get the (curling) stones or (lawn) bowls into the target area,” said Cheow, whose ultimate goal is to see Malaysia qualify for the Winter Olympics.

“Right now, the aim is to popularise the sport. If more people are interested, we can then have some form of training programme and look into the setting up of an association,” she said.

“If you love something, you can get it done. There is no need to wait for government assistance. Get moving and produce results first,” she added.

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