TEENAGE water skier Aaliyah Yoong Hanifah earned her best-ever showing to-date in tricks with two medals at the Junior Moomba in Melbourne.
The 15-year-old skier bounced back strongly following two falls at the Oceania Waterski Championships in Latrobe to post up a score of 7,230 points at the Yarra River last weekend.
It was not too far off her personal best mark of 7,600 points and she settled for silver behind world tricks champion, top seed and favourite Neilly Ross of Canada, who raked in 8,790 points. Chile’s Josefa Gonzalez finished third with 4,880 points.
The silver medal finish also means Aaliyah equaled her efforts from 2014 and 2015. Both times she took home the silver in tricks as well.
But this year, Aaliyah will certainly be pleased with herself knowing that she will return with at least two medals.
This is because she also settled for silver in the overall event, with a total of 2,668.74 points.
Australia’s junior world champion Sade Ferguson won the overall gold courtesy of also winning the slalom and jump events for an overall total of 2,677.73 points.
It was a close miss for Aaliyah and she will certainly rue her chances of not finishing on top of the podium at the Moomba event for the first time since her debut in 2013.
Unfortunately she only managed an eighth-place finish in slalom with 5.5/55/14.25 and narrowly missed out on finishing third in jump after producing a distance of 35m.
Ferguson took the jump gold with a 40m distance while New Zealand’s Lily Meade was second with 38m.
A second Aussie – Molly Ferguson, who is Sade’s older sister, came in third with 36.7m.
If Aaliyah had made the podium in the jump she would have beaten Sade to the overall gold medal.
Nevertheless it is still an excellent result for Aaliyah who is surely on track to challenge for a podium finish at the World Junior Championships in 2020.
“I am very happy that I am able to match the jump world junior champion Sade in overall as she is the favourite for the world junior title in 2020. That is the yardstick I am aiming for,” said Aaliyah.
“Losing gold in overall to Sade by a mere few points shows that I am certainly able to challenge for the overall world junior title next year.”
Malaysian Waterski and Wakeboard Federation (MWWF) head coach Hanifah Yoong added that Aaliyah had come within striking distance of Sade and Kennedy Hansen of the United States, who are the top two junior skiers in the world right now.
“She showed at the Junior Moomba that she is not only a contender for the world junior tricks title but capable of doing well overall,” said Hanifah who is also Aaliyah’s father.
“She has certainly come a long way in progressing in both jump and slalom in addition to her tricks discipline. She is expected to be ranked No 3 in overall behind Kennedy and Sade at the 2020 World Juniors so she has to stay within striking distance for all three disciplines of jump, slalom and tricks.
“As for tricks, she is already No 2 behind Kennedy so she certainly stands a chance of winning the world junior title next year,” he added.
Aaliyah, who is a student with Nexus International School, will take a break to focus on her IGCSE exams in May.
Her intensive training begins after her exams and her next major event will be the Waterski World Championships scheduled in Putrajaya in August.
Aaliyah’s participation in the Nautique Moomba Masters was supported by the National Sports Council of Malaysia, Putrajaya Corporation, Nautique Boats and D3 Skis of US.