Aaliyah, 11, leaves competition trailing in her wake
She might be only 11, but Aaliyah Yoong believes she is already a "veteran" in competitive waterskiing as she became the Singapore SEA Games’ youngest winner on Friday (June 12).
The Malaysian prodigy has some justification for the claim as in 2011, she won SEA Games gold aged only eight to set the record as the tournament’s youngest champion.
And despite her tender years and angelic appearance, Aaliyah tightened her iron grip on the sport with an emphatic women’s tricks win at Singapore’s Bedok Reservoir.
Shrugging off Singapore's stormy weather, she scored 4,850 points to finish way ahead of 16-year-old Indonesian Nur Alimah Prambodo’s 2,930.
“I think I could have done a little better but overall I am still proud of my performance today,” she said, according to the New Straits Times.
“To complete two passes standing up was really tough because the waves were big and there was also quite a lot of backwash.”
Family of waterskiiers
Surprisingly Aaliyah is not the youngest waterskiier at the SEA Games – she’s not even the youngest from her family in the competition.
Adam, the youngest of the Yoongs at seven, competed in the men’s wakeboard event while his older brother Aiden Yoong, nine, won bronze in men's tricks event.
Coach Larry Gisler told The New Paper that he was impressed by the two older siblings' performances and the next goal for Aaliyah would be a top world ranking.
He said: "We have to keep pushing her - hopefully in five years’ time she will be the top three in the world.
"This bodes well for water-skiing in Malaysia. Today’s results show that the system is working, and we have four or five more students waiting to make their mark in the next few years."
The family group is led by their waterskiing elder brother Alex Yoong, 38, who has already found fame through his career as a racing driver and TV commentator.
But given the presence of her younger siblings, it’s not surprising that Aaliyah considers herself a wakeboarding expert at the age of only 11.
“I have been training a lot for the SEA Games,” she said. “My dad says I am already a veteran and I guess I am already quite experienced at this level.”
- AFP with additional reporting by Benjamin Lim