SINGAPORE - As a Formula One driver Alex Yoong did all he could to avoid spinning in action but now in his burgeoning water-skiing career the Malaysian can't do it enough.
Spins, jumps, tricks, the 38-year-old did them all as he and his young siblings, with a break from school, helped themselves to seven medals at the Southeast Asian Games in Singapore this week.
While Yoong took silver in the overall and bronze in the jump and slalom, 11-year-old half-sister Aaliyah won the women's overall and tricks titles and took silver in the jump. Nine-year-old half-brother Aiden took bronze in the men's tricks.
With a medal in his pocket and age on his side, Aiden was asked whether he saw himself as a world champion. "I want to be a dinosaur rider," he told Reuters.
Seven-year-old brother Adam took part in the men's wakeboard in Singapore but didn't win a medal. He was more worried that his school friends were missing him. "It's pretty cool and it's not just them, we have a couple of other young kids coming through. It's good for the sport," big brother Alex told Reuters on Sunday as the final day of action wrapped up at the Bedok Reservoir.
Alex, like Aaliyah, Aiden and Adam, began his water-ski career as a child but only because his small stature was hindering his motor racing. "I wasn't big enough to reach the pedals on the cars and we didn't have any go-karting back then in Malaysia so my parents thought it was a good way to get rid of excess energy," he said. "I loved the sport but it was always going to come second to motor racing, but now in my older age, motor racing doesn't motivate me to keep fit as it used to so I needed new challenges and that's why I came back to this. "It makes me watch my diet more, hit the gym so it's good." Yoong still looked svelte enough to fit into the tiny cockpit of the Minardi Formula One car he drove in 2001 and 2002, but wished he was bigger.
In a competition full of muscular twenty something opponents, apart from his young siblings, Yoong said he needed to bulk up. "It is very power intensive, you need to build big muscle mass not just to pull behind the boat but survive big falls and just need to work on that a bit more. My condition is, I'm just not big enough," said Yoong, who also won gold at the 2011 SEA Games. "Race card drivers are meant to be lean and skinny. The (water-ski) training is quite different." Yoong's medal haul came despite nursing a mashed up knee through the four days of competition, wearing a supporting brace to help him through.
He said he had more private goals he wanted to achieve in the sport but was weighing up surgery on the damaged cruciate and medial ligaments upon return to Kuala Lumpur.
Completing the sporting family was proud father Hanifah Yoong, a former 400 metre hurdler and now understandably team manager of the Malaysian water-ski side.
The young age of the troop meant he had far different tasks to fit in his role but he was delighted since it meant having the family together. "Managing a team is hard enough but when you are managing small kids then you also have to make sure they eat, go to toilet. Either way though it's enjoyable," he told Reuters.