National water skiers underline potential with four golds


THE four-gold haul highlights just how much potential Malaysia has in water ski.

Aaliyah Yoong Hanifah (pic) is the golden girl of water ski.

She broke into the limelight six years ago – aged eight – by winning the tricks event to become Malay­sia’s youngest ever SEA Games gold medallist.

But even Aaliyah, now 14, could not have imagined herself finishing with three golds and a silver.

She had the worst possible start, coming down with high fever just two days before competition started.

Despite being half-fit and posting rather average scores, it was still more than enough for her to blow her rivals away for the women’s overall gold.

That set the pace for her as she slalomed to a silver and also easily took home gold in tricks.

The best surprise came in jump, where she turned the tables on defending champion Rossi Amir of Indonesia with a 32.6m effort.

She even broke older sister Phil­lipa Yoong’s 23-year national record (32.2m) with a jump of 32.8m during the preliminary round.

Aaliyah now has a year to prepare for the World Junior Water Ski Championships in Spain next August.

“For me the SEA Games is my last tournament for the year. The season is over for me. I’m looking to relax a bit,” said Aaliyah.

“My target next year will be the world juniors. I’m definitely hoping to do well there.”

Aaliyah is not the only star from the Hanifah family.

Nine-year-old brother Adam was equally dazzling as he put up a cool and composed display that belied his age to take the men’s tricks gold.

“I’m really proud of my skiers. They were under a lot of pressure but showed really good attitude, es­­pecially Adam,” said Malaysia Water­­­ski and Wakeboard Federa­tion (MWWF) head coach Hanifah Yoong.

“He’s just a cool kid who doesn’t think too much. He knows he just needs to do his best when he goes out there.”

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