VOLUME IV /// ISSUE 1 OF 3
There is no doubt that, for many athletes out there, performing at an Olympic level is the pinnacle of success. It’s the ultimate dream and the ultimate aspiration. At the same time, many are realising that success is not a binary concept, unlike it was believed to be decades ago. Young, passionate people are now claiming their agency and ripping apart the convenient little boxes prepared for them by ‘traditions’. And doing so with grace and conviction.
GAHSP had the pleasure of speaking to international medalist and film producer Maisy Ma, who is determined to help the next generation of Hong Kong skaters ascend to glory internationally while championing the representation of Asian women in media.
Originally from Hong Kong, Ma had to move to Beijing with her family at the age of three. Serendipitously, the neighbourhood where her family moved to was next to a fabulous ice rink that sparked the interest of the future skater. “I think, at the time, [those kids] looked like they were huge to me, but I guess they were maybe like ten, fifteen. They were wearing sparkly dresses. They were flying around. [They] just seemed to have freedom, [which] got me, I guess. The freedom and the speed is something you don't get on the ground,” is how Ma recalls her first encounter with the sport that would go on to define her childhood and adolescence. At the age of eleven, Ma became the second top skater in China.
Cut to 2018, the name Maisy Ma is a household name in Hong Kong. She is the protégé, who made skating an elite sport, so atypical for a tropical city in the Asia Pacific. At this point, she had been trained by International skating superstars like Rafael Arutyunyan and Nadia Kanaeva. She is set to represent Hong Kong in the Winter Olympics in Pyeong Chang. A few months before, she is forced to withdraw due to an ankle injury. “Missing Olympics is one of the biggest things for me. I even got a tattoo on me to remind myself about that every single day,” recalls Ma, “A lot of people will take it as a tragedy because, you know, you skated all your life for that one thing, and then you got injured. I don't feel like that. I can only say these words because I made it that far to say those words. I was a step away. But I had to be that close to say that.” The determination pushed the star skater to graduate university in just two years and pursue her dream of working in film.
Ever since becoming an influencer, Ma has been fascinated with behind-the-scenes work, “You always see those ads and billboards, you only see the final product, that’s eight to nine hours of work. When I started going in as a model/KOL/influencer, whatever you call it, it made me realise that there is a lot of important people behind the scenes to support this whole thing.” The first experience in the film industry for Ma was working as a production assistant on a movie Hong Kong Love Story, to be released later this year. Back then, the figure skater pledged to help create a space for Asian women in the industry, “Asian people were always like the kid that dies in a movie or something. Now, we have movies solely based on an Asian character. And I would love to grab the opportunity. I want my voice to be heard on different platforms.”
It would be redundant to say that every professional skater, or athlete in general, is trained to be a perfectionist, their one harshest critic. This rigorous training has allowed the assistant producer at a major studio in Hong Kong to stick around in the notoriously unforgiving industry. “With Hong Kong Love Story, There are one hundred fifty people, a hundred fifty crew [members] going to each event and stuff. So, if something goes wrong, it might delay everything. I just like being a perfectionist who matters. And this industry has been very aware of every single detail.”
Jumping (or, shall we say toe-loop-jumping) from an ice rink to a production house seems like transitioning from a pressure cooker to one of those high-pressure machines from hell used to make synthetic diamonds. “I was in an individual sport. There is only one. Number one, it is not a team event or anything. Every single person that you skated with or you train with on the ice, they say that they are your friends, but they are your enemies because they are the people who are fighting for that gold medal,” says Ma frankly about the grim reality of the individual sport. At the same time, when being in charge of the production of a multi-million-dollar feature film, one has to become responsible for hundreds of people. Here a single mistake might cost the studio thousands of dollars. “Right now, I am going through a lot of stressful incidents. I hang out with people a lot older than me. I am in another world now, people [who are] higher up in the society. You see much struggle as a younger person stepping into society; you might not fit in anyways. So, you have a lot of pressure on you to compare yourself to them.” And that is where the training of the star athlete comes into play, “My coach used to say, it is impossible for an athlete to not have pressure on you when you have got competition. You can be number one in the world, winning every single competition for the past two years, and you still have pressure when you step on the ice. Pressure is always going to be there. It is just how you react or how you put yourself out and face it.”
METAMORPHOSIS /// DREAM
VOLUME IV /// ISSUE 1 OF 3
Cover star: @maisyma1999
Creative direction: @gennadyoreshkin & @juliahorvath.concept
Wardrobe: @majeparis , @davidkomalondon , @safiyaa_official
Written and edited by Gennady Oreshkin
Image Courtesy of GAHSP Media