Meet Dr. Yew Weng Kean, the PhD holder in electrical engineering who made history and the nation proud, as Malaysia’s first ever e-sports athlete to win a SEA Games gold medal. Read on to catch a glimpse of his journey to stardom.

In light of the Olympic games, undeniably one of the most popular sporting events in the world, taking place in Tokyo, Japan this year, it is unfortunate that not all sports make the cut—even some of our favourites. In the spirit of celebrating some of these sports, we at Augustman Malaysia would like to uncover some of these uncommon and under-appreciated sports.

dr. yew weng kean esports
Photography by Kim Mun / Hopscotch Studios

An assistant professor at Heriot-Watt University Malaysia, Dr. Yew Weng Kean takes pride in being one of the first few gold medallists – and the only Malaysian one – at the first-ever E-Sports tournament which was held during the 2019 SEA Games. Once and for all silencing critics who once believed that “gaming will get you nowhere.” We find out a little more about his journey and experience leading up to him making the nation proud.

We spoke to Dr. Yew Weng Kean to ask him a few questions about his rise to stardom:

TELL US HOW DID YOU GET INTO GAMING?

Well I got into Hearthstone when it first came out on the iPad; while I had friends playing it on their computers, I didn’t really know much about it. Back then I was using my iPad a lot, so I thought I’d give this a try, and that’s how I got hooked on to it. At that time I was just starting out on my journey towards my PhD, and it was difficult for me to adapt to the whole research based approach, thus I turned to Hearthstone as a hobby and sort of an escape to relax and pass time. As I kept playing I collected quite a number of cards and realised I had a knack for it, and thought ‘Hey, I should try competing with others.’

HOW THEN DID YOU GET INTO COMPETING?

I went around looking for the competitions, and paid the registrations fees, which was at the time around RM10 or RM20, I can’t really remember now. And the best part was that you can just play from home; I finished second in my first ever competition – it was called the Malaysian Hearthstone Online Cup. It honestly felt like a low-risk endeavour which wouldn’t affect the course of my PhD, and so I carried on. Slowly the prize money grew along with my competitiveness. Eventually I felt Malaysia was not enough, so I tried out for the regional competitions, and then the SEA Games came along.

HOW DID YOU FEEL REPRESENTING THE COUNTRY AT THE 2019 SEA GAMES?

Never in my wildest imaginations had I ever thought such a thing would happen. First off, the fact that SEA Games began hosting E-Sports tournaments, and then, the fact that Hearthstone was among the games, and then me winning it? It was all surreal. The whole journey itself was tough too. The qualifying process was an uphill battle, because all the players are very good! On top of that, this game also boils down to chance as well, which is scary when you’re playing high stakes.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS YOUR ADVANTAGE THEN?

Well apart from having a bit of an upper hand because I’m good at math, and having more exposure in competitive settings, I’d say my family played a vital role as well in my journey. In fact, I think I was the only player who had is entire family present during the finals. Their support is truly amazing and uplifting – I’d not have done it without them.

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