Jimmy Ma, a figure skater raised in Great Neck, wanted to do something that’d make people sit up and pay attention during his run at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships last week.
So instead of a more traditional routine with classical music, Ma, 22, skated to the club banger “Turn Down for What” by Lil Jon and DJ Snake.
In a video viewed more than 500,000 times on YouTube, Ma takes to the ice dressed in all black. He opens his routine to the heavy bass of another DJ Snake song, “Propaganda,” elegantly twirling around the rink, sticking a triple lutz and later a triple axel. About two minutes into his performance, Ma leaps into the air just as Lil Jon shouts “turn down for what,” to the cheers of the crowd at the SAP Center in San Jose, California.
He wags his tongue, energetically waves his arms and ends the routine by sliding onto the ice with one fist raised.
“We wanted something that people could relate to and have fun with,” Ma said.
Ma, who skated to a medley of Eminem songs at last year’s championships, said he’s been experimenting with switching up his style for a while.
The Great Neck North High School graduate is trained in ballet, but he has been taking hip-hop lessons to nail down the movement and inject “a little swagger” into his performances, he said.
For the short program, he and his choreographer considered a lot of contemporary tunes, including songs by Justin Timberlake and The Weeknd, before ultimately deciding on the 2013 hit.
Ma said he thought his routine would turn a few heads, but he didn’t know the routine was being aired live and didn’t expect all the media attention that would follow.
“Right when I got off, [my coaches] were like, ‘Don’t check Twitter. Get your skates off and relax first, cause you’re blowing up,’ ” said Ma, who recently moved to Euless, Texas, to train.
Sports Illustrated, BuzzFeed, NBC Sports and several other news organizations have taken notice of Ma’s unorthodox song choice, and people won’t stop talking about it online.
Though he clearly won over the crowd, Ma placed 11th in the short program and will not qualify to compete in the Winter Olympics next month in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Ma previously won the bronze medal in the national competition while competing in the junior division in 2014 and placed 20th overall last year.
The Pyeongchang Olympics will be the first to feature figure skaters performing to music with lyrics, with organizers hoping to draw younger fans to the sport. Ma took full advantage of the rule change, though in a subsequent performance Saturday he took a more traditional tack — skating to a classical piece by Rachmaninoff.
Ma, who also is a classically trained pianist, said his musical tastes span the spectrum. He enjoys Chopin just as much as Kendrick Lamar and says he plans to continue skating to a diverse range of music.
“There’s a lot of pieces you can skate to now that you couldn’t before,” Ma said. “I think it gives us a lot more freedom to have fun and express who we are on the ice. I think it gives a glimpse of what figure skating can be like.”