Moving mountains

Othman is proud to wear his country's colours on the ski slope. — Pix courtesy of Othman Mirzan
He wants to introduce more Malaysians to winter sports. — Pix courtesy of Othman Mirzan
Othman Mirzan is Malaysia's first national alpine ski racer. — Pix courtesy of Othman Mirzan

WHO would have thought a tropical country like Malaysia would have its own national ski team represented by Othman Mirzan, the country's first national alpine ski racer.

"I think it is a wonderful thing (for Malaysia to have its own ski team). If we can inspire other Malaysians to think outside the box and pursue their form of greatness, we have a positive impact on Malaysia," he said.

Every year, Othman and his family would go to Whistler, Canada and that was where he learned how to ski, before moving to Maine for a season to learn how to ski race.

"Skiing to me is exhilaration; there is nothing quite like it. The speed, tenacity, reaction time and dangers all heighten your senses. It is an incredible adrenaline rush," he said.

With that said, ski racing is a dangerous sport. Falls can often lead to torn tendons, broken bones, concussions, and worse. However, with high risk comes a high reward when the individual crosses the finish line and experience the rush of adrenaline that comes with it.

"I went to the 2017 Asian Winter Games and the 2017 FIS World Championships. It was an incredible experience – from walking at the opening ceremony in Sapporo to pushing out of the start gate at the World Championships in St. Moritz – the experience was exhilarating from start to finish," he said.

The grandson of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Othman said his grandfather has always been his role model and idol.

"His drive to help his country is unwavering, and I hope our endeavour to extend the scope of Malaysian sport has made him proud," he said, adding that his grandfather dislikes the cold.

"I love the cold and the snow, but in moderation. Too much cold is never nice, but too much snow is amazing for powder skiing. However, warm weather is still my favourite and there is no place like a sunny day at home in Malaysia," he said.

How does it feel to put Malaysia on the map for winter sports?

It makes me proud to wear my country's colours on the ski slope. The ski community has been very welcoming and excited to see a Malaysian representative. I am happy I can bring representation to the millions at home who have never seen snow.

What are a skier's must-haves?

A skier must be able to adapt and think quickly – changes on the course forces you to alter the way you are skiing in real-time, and you have to adjust yourself or you will fall. Also, ski racers cannot be scared – if you doubt yourself and get scared, you'll lose time and not be competitive.

What challenges do you face?

The first challenge was setting up Ski Malaysia, which took a year or so to do, but it has paid off in full. Finding financing for the season was tough, but thankfully there were companies who stepped up to help. Without them, I would never have been able to get this far.

What is the best advice you have received?

I fell at a qualifier in 2015 when I first got into ski racing. It is disheartening to fall in a race because that is the end of your day. But I was pulled aside by a coach who told me, "it is not about the fall, it is about how determined you are to get back at the gate and back to racing".

What's next?

We are prepping for Pyeongchang 2018 by lining up good races for the start of the next season and getting our fitness levels ready over the summer. Hopefully, we will qualify by the cut-off date in February 2018.

In 2022, we will have Jeffrey Webb ready to take the helm for Malaysia. I intend to stay on as a ski racer and help with the association, but I will take a back seat in major international competitions and Jeffrey will take over as the No.1 Malaysian ski racer.

What are your plans for skiing?

I want to introduce more Malaysians to winter sports. Perhaps, by building partnerships with resorts close to Malaysia to provide early access for Malaysians. I also want to pursue more big mountain skiing after I am done with ski racing, to explore my limits and abilities as a skier.

What do you do outside of skiing?

I am currently studying Political Science, hopefully with a minor in Business at the University of Colorado Boulder. Political Science has taught me the ways countries interact on a diplomatic and political level. It has also taught me factors of governance, and what makes an administration successful in the long run.

I will be graduating in 2019 and if all goes according to plan, I intend to return to Malaysia to work.