Malaysia wakeboarders have a blast at the SEA Game

Malaysia wakeboarders have a blast at the SEA Game
Adam Yoong in action during the 28th SEA Games, Waterski Men's Wakeboarding heats at Bedok Reservoir on 11 June 2015.

Moments after seven-year-old Adam Yoong Hanifah climbed out of the water at the Bedok Reservoir, several of his teammates gathered around him, giving him a hug, a kiss, or both.

Leading the way were his three older siblings Aiden, Aaliyah and Alex, proud that the SEA Games rookie was riding the waves while so many others his age would be glued to the computer screen or TV.

"This is even better than school," said Malaysia's Adam.

"I like the experience of being able to wakeboard across the water because it's really fun.

"If I win a medal in either of my events (men's wakeboarding and men's wakeboarding team), that will be even sweeter."

The 1.23-metre Adam had just finished last out of seven competitors in the men's wakeboarding heats yesterday - he finished with a mere 20.22 points, more than 30 behind the sixth-placed contestant - but it didn't matter.

He was out, but the cheers for him were loud.

Amazingly, Adam, Aiden, Aaliyah and the most famous one of them all, Alex Yoong, are all wakeboarders competing in the SEA Games.

A familiar face to many sports fans in the region, the 39-year-old Alex was a Formula 1 driver for Minardi 13 years ago, and is know an F1 analyst on TV. Alex is the half-brother of Adam, Aiden and Aaliyah.

He said: "Personally, I think I'm kind of a mentor to the three of them, especially with the huge age gap that we have.

"We are here as a family and that makes everything better.

"It's all about guiding the three of them to get as much opportunities as they can, because our family's pretty sports crazy."

Indeed they are.

The Yoong brood have a proud history in the sport at the SEA Games.

Alex got the ball rolling with a silver in 1997, following that up with one gold and two silver medals on his return at the 2011 Games.

Aaliyah, meanwhile, created history by becoming the youngest-ever gold-medallist at the biennial Games after winning the women's tricks event that same year, aged just eight.

Adam and Aiden are making their debuts this year.

"It's nice to have Aiden and Adam with us in Singapore. Having more family members helps," said Aaliyah, now 11.

"It's only my second SEA Games (waterskiing and wakeboarding were not on the programme in the 2013 Games in Myanmar), but I want to get even better.

"Maybe two gold medals this time around, in the tricks and overall events."

Hanifah Yoong, the patriarch of the family, is the manager of the Malaysian team.

Said the 67-year-old: "I raised my family with the sole aim of giving them a foundation for success.

"You can put your children through the best schools and see them become doctors or lawyers, or you can see them become successful athletes.

"Either way, the rewards and the pride you get are equally similar.

"There's so much to achieve in life, and if sport is what my children want to pursue, then by all means, I will support them."

Yesterday's action saw Aaliyah top the heats in the women's tricks with 4,840 points, while both Aiden and Alex progressed to the final of the men's wakeboarding event, scoring 3,050 and 2,730 points, respectively, in the heats.

Singapore's bronze beauty Sasha Christian finished first in the women's wakeboarding heats with 61.45 points.

Following her into today's finals are Gooi Jia Yi in women's wakeboarding, Samuel Min and Joshua Tay in the men's wakeboarding, sisters Kalya and Sabelle Kee in the women's tricks, and Mark Leong in the men's tricks.

This article was first published on June 12, 2015.
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