Team Singapore

How wakeboarder Sasha Christian bounced back from a broken leg

If necessity is the mother of invention, Sasha Christian walks and talks it, as her ingenuity led her to complete a hat-trick of SEA Games wakeboarding gold medals (2011, 2015, 2017) last week.

When the 24-year-old-one of Singapore's leading lights in watersports - broke her right fibula last July after landing on one leg in the water during practice, it was a race against time to be fit for the biennial regional meet.

Instead of moping around during her recovery period, Christian - who also won two SEA Games waterski slalom titles (2015, 2017) - began using improvised equipment and training methods.

"The important thing was to keep a routine," she told The Sunday Times at her home.

"That meant waking up early (5am-5.30am) and going to training. As I was on crutches for six weeks, I would still go to training (at Bedok Reservoir to waterski and at Punggol to wakeboard) to drive the boat or coach others.

"It was all about getting back into the groove."

Still unfit, she could not waterski or wakeboard yet, while 360-degree turns, whirlybirds and back rolls were strictly no-nos.

Her competitive nature meant that she was itching to hit the water. After all, she won a bronze medal at the Asian Wakeboard Championships when she was only 11. By the time she was 16, she had added three more silvers (2006, 2008, 2009).

But she had learned a painful lesson from the past. In 2012, Christian suffered a partial tear in her medial cruciate ligament and she rushed back into action. The knee consequently broke down four times in the next seven months.

There was also the mental stress of being grounded for too long.

Christian, who turned professional in 2014, recalled: "I was very concerned about the slalom because I had not competed in this event since the 2015 Asian Championships. And I had been tracking the progress of the other competitors, like Malaysia's Aaliyah (Yoong) and the Indonesian (Galuh Mutiara Maulidina).

"The few months out (through injury) became very crucial, I had to plan my training very strategically. I reminded myself there was still time, I had to be patient, be positive and it would come together."

The fracture last year would take at least three months to heal but she struggled to regain full fitness as it was subsequently found that she had damaged her cartilage too.

Christian realised that if she were to win her third regional wakeboard title, she had to be calm and methodical, perhaps even going back to the basics.

That is how, in a leafy suburb somewhere along Bukit Timah, where her family live in a condominium tucked away in a quiet corner, she had her Eureka moment.

By the poolside is a palm tree and, by chance, the residents thought of buying a trampoline for kids to play with. Christian offered to pay more for a bigger one.

Tying her wakeboarding handle to the tree, she would bounce on the trampoline to simulate riding on the waves and going airborne to perform tricks.

For waterskiing, she would stand on the grass, holding the handle to work on her posture, imagining that she was in the perfect position as she sliced through the wake.

"It was land training but I could almost feel like I was in the water," she said.

It worked.

For fellow national wakeboarders and waterskiers are flocking to her condominium for the homemade goodness of Christian's medal-winning formula - in Kuala Lumpur, she retained both the wakeboarding and waterski slalom titles she won in 2015, adding to the wakeboarding gold from 2011.

In retrospect, the fracture helped to reshape Christian's thinking.

She said: "In a way, the injury was a blessing in disguise. It gave me a different focus. Last year was supposed to be an intensive year but I spent almost half the time injured.

"But I came back mentally stronger. I have learned to take one thing at a time, not to get overly excited and trust in my training."

And trust she did, in a simple yet creative apparatus.

Perhaps even you, too, can polish your wakeboarding skills if you follow Christian's method.

Palm trees not included

Water SportsSEA Games