Michelle Yeoh said she had wanted to be an Olympian before becoming a movie star, after she was voted onto the International Olympic Committee on Tuesday.
The first Asian woman to win an Academy Award – when she scooped best actress for “Everything Everywhere All at Once” earlier this year – Yeoh added she hoped to use her new role to continue her work with refugees.
She was one of eight new members voted in on the final day of the 141st IOC session in Mumbai, India.
Before the vote, Britain’s Princess Anne, the chair of the IOC’s member election committee, introduced Yeoh as “a Malaysia junior squash champion”.
“Sadly, her other different skills took her away from her sporting life but a very fulfilled career and a lot of interest in sport throughout that.”
A smiling Yeoh, speaking to reporters afterwards, said: “I remember when someone asked me how did you become an actress and I always said ‘I never dreamed of being an actress, but as a child I always dreamed of being an Olympian.
“Sports was very much part of my life growing up, I was very much involved with squash, athletics, swimming and diving.”
Yeoh added she hoped she could “marry” her experience of being a successful actor with the knowledge gained from being a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme.
“When I see Team Refugee (the Olympic team composed of refugee athletes) it moves me and I feel that could be a very, very good place to start because I have already been working with that.
“In the camps, it’s true, when you see the kids they don’t have anything and you have to give them hope. Somehow I feel sports do that.”
Following her election by 67 votes to nine, with one abstention, Yeoh said there were many similarities between acting and top-level sport.
Asked if squash was still her favourite sport, the 61-year-old replied: “It used to be, but then two knee surgeries, a bad back. Now I do a lot of free shadow boxing because I still do martial arts in my movies.
“So I keep up with hiking and swimming, which is one of the more gentle sports to do.”
Yeoh’s Hollywood breakthrough came when she was cast in 1997’s Bond film “Tomorrow Never Dies” opposite Pierce Brosnan, and she made her reputation in martial arts movies including “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon”.
Yeoh insisted she would still be able to devote time to the IOC despite a busy screen career.
“If you are passionate about what you do, you will find the time,” she said.
“We all bring something valuable to the table and I think that is why everyone who is part of this family has been chosen for very good reasons and I’m grateful I have this opportunity.”
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