The king of men’s figure skating in Southeast Asia is no longer Michael Christian Martinez of the Philippines.
The title now belongs to Julian Zhi Jie Yee, a 19-year-old Malaysian.
Martinez, until last week’s World Figure Skating Championships in Helsinki, was the undisputed No. 1 in the region.
In the Finnish capital, however, Yee finished ahead of 20-year-old Martinez at 22nd among 36 skaters, 12 of whom failed to advance to the free skate.
His Filipino rival was 24th in the final standings in the men’s division, with 69.32 points in the short program (SP) and 127.47 points in the free skate (FS) for a total score of 196.79 points.
Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu topped the event with a total of 321.59 points (98.39 SP and 223.20 FS) to win the gold medal, beating compatriot Shoma Uno (silver medal, 104.86 SP and 214.45 FS) and China’s Jin Boyang (bronze medal, 98.64 SP and 204.94 FS).
Yee got a total of 213.99 points from the short program (69.74) and the free skate (144.25), to beat Martinez by 17.20 points.
It is the first time for the Malaysian to defeat Martinez this year, with the Filipino emerging as the winner at the Asian Winter Games last February and remaining as the No. 1 Southeast Asian figure skater.
Although Yee and Martinez were among the 24 who qualified for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, based on their performance in Helsinki, their places were given to competitors from other countries whose skaters were given more than one spot next year in what is regarded as the greatest show on ice.
The two, however, have another chance to each nail an Olympic berth by landing any of the six places still available for male figure skaters in another qualifying event in the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany in September this year.
After the Germany qualifier, Martinez and Yee are expected to square off again in Kuala Lumpur in August this year when the 2017 edition of the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games is held at the Malaysian’s hometown.
The region’s biggest sports extravaganza four months from now will probably be the first time that the SEA Games will feature winter events in a country, like the Philippines, where there is no snow.