The future of Malaysian water skiing are, from left: Syahir Nasir, Ariana Chow, Aaliyah Yoong Hanifah, Aiden Yoong Hanafiah.
PETALING JAYA: Young water skier Aaliyah Yoong Hanifah has had to grow up real fast since winning the gold medal in women’s tricks at the 2011 SEA Games at the tender age of eight.
Aaliyah has already won one title this year – the Malindo Championships in Jakarta in April – and boasts a personal best of 5,920 points.
She also finished second in the Under-17 category of the San Gervasio International in Italy earlier this month.
And Aaliyah, who is still only 11 years old, is in prime condition to retain her Asian crown in the women’s tricks at the IWWF Asian Ocenian Championships in Perth, Australia, from Oct 5-12.
She will first head to the IWWF Asian Cup from Sept 5-7 with another promising youngster – Ariana Chow.
The Malaysian Waterski and Wakeboard Federation (MWWF) have done well to establish a long-term programme, with several promising youngsters alongside Aaliyah.
Besides Aaliyah, who is ranked 38th in the world and the 13-year-old Ariana, two others – 16-year-old Syahir Nasir and nine-year-old Aiden Yoong Hanifah – are also part of the elite long-term programme with three others in the back-up squad.
“This programme was launched to create a world class team with the hopes of producing a world champion by 2020,” said MWWF head coach Hanifah Yoong.
“The idea is to not rely only on Aaliyah. Malaysia is fourth strongest in Asia behind South Korea, Japan and Indonesia ... with China also catching up.
“Ariana only started training two years ago but has caught up fast. In another 12 to 18 months, she will be on par with Aaliyah.
“Aiden is just nine and has the potential to reach world level ... he has time on his side.”
With water skiing set to return to the SEA Games programme in 2015 (Singapore) and 2017 (Malaysia), it certainly pays to have a long-term project.