In 2020, Julian Macaraeg became the first Filipino Short Track Speed Skater to compete at a Winter Youth Olympic Games. In Lausanne, he made his first steps towards his ultimate goal: competing at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games.
“Competing at the Olympics is my all-time goal,” said Macaraeg, who has been dreaming about Beijing ever since 2010.
The 17-year-old started with speed skating at the age of three, during the public sessions in his hometown New York, United States. “My instructor told me that I was advanced for a beginner,” he recalls.
“At six, I started playing hockey, but I was too fast for it. The coach told me to try Short Track Speed Skating as it was in the same rink. That’s how it all started.”
Born to Filipino parents who immigrated to the United States in the 90s, Macaraeg came up with the idea to compete for the Philippines back in 2018.
Back then, he competed in his first ISU World Junior Short Track Speed Skating Championships and in 2019, he qualified for the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games following a strong performance at the ISU World Junior Short Track Speed Skating Championships.
Julian Macaraeg (PHI) at the Youth Olympic Games 2020©Getty Images
Flying the Philippine flag at Lausanne 2020 has helped him to gain experience for the ‘real deal’: Beijing 2022. “Competing in Lausanne gave me experience for the real world, for real big competitions. It was such a thrill and a life changing experience. It’s something I will never forget.”
Macaraeg not only learned more about competing at a multi-sport event, he also experienced what it felt like to be the lone representative in the sport for his country. “Being the lone skater, not having a whole team with you, is hard. Because there’s really not much support going on with your teammates,” he said.
Julian Macaraeg (PHI) at the ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating (CAN) 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
“I had to learn how to cope up with things myself and just have a positive mind set. That is really all you need in the sport. You have to think positive and things will go your way.”
It’s the positivity that helps him through competitions, he said. “I always think to myself that I’ve trained as hard as all the other competitors. We skate on the same ice and we are all there to win. My goal is just to do my best. In Short Track, anything can happen.”
Being the lone representative for his country at the 2021 World Championships in Dordrecht [the Netherlands], Macaraeg finished 24th in the 1500m, 25th in the 500m and 42nd in the 1000m, but he targets a bigger goal in the future. “I hope to win a medal in the Winter Olympic Games,” he said.
Among his idols are Filipino artistic gymnast Carlos Yulo, who became a world champion on floor exercise in 2019. The gold helped Yulo qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. “He is an inspiration to me because he won gold. I want to thank him for making our country proud,” Macaraeg said.
Inspiring others is something Macaraeg aims to do as a Short Track Speed Skater as well. “I sometimes do think I am a role model for my country. Most of my family lives in the Philippines and they are really aware of the sport, but the [overall] fan base is still small. My goal for the next years is just going on to compete and I will try to make the sport more popular.”