Waterskiers and wakeboarders eyeing best-ever haul at next month's SEA Games

Waterskiers and wakeboarders eyeing best-ever haul at next month's SEA Games
Photo shoot of national SEA Games waterskiers Mark Leong.

Singapore's best performance in waterskiing at the South-east Asia (SEA) Games was in 1997, when the team returned home with a haul of three gold, one silver and two bronze medals.

Next month, former national waterskier Paul Fong (right) believes the team will deliver a best-ever performance.

Speaking to The New Paper recently, the Singapore Waterski and Wakeboard Federation director and coach of elite performance said: "I would like to believe that we can win four gold medals out of the 11 on offer.

"That's on our radar, and I think it's achievable. That, along with maybe two silvers and a bronze to make it seven medals for Team Singapore."

Fong, 50, first represented Singapore at the SEA Games on home soil in 1983 and bagged a team bronze in waterskiing.

He won three silvers at the 1987 Games in Jakarta.

After Singapore's success in 1997, waterskiing didn't feature at the biennial Games until 2011 in Indonesia, and didn't make the programme again in 2013.

It is back this year, along with wakeboarding, and Fong is feeling confident.

"Our skiers and riders have better equipment to practise their craft now. Most importantly, the sport has become more accessible, with plenty of support being made available for both athletes and casual skiers.

"It's a process that has been years in the making and, because of that, I think our athletes can achieve much more than what I could in my time," he said.

The lack of international competition means the sport had enjoyed much less of the spotlight compared to table tennis and sailing here and, for Fong, this year's SEA Games is a perfect opportunity for waterskiing and wakeboarding to be introduced to a new generation of Singaporeans.

"What I like is how Sport Singapore has done its bit for the local waterskiing scene on the promotional front. Our athletes have the publicity that they need to create a following, like being featured in magazines and having various initiatives by the authorities to help endear them to fellow Singaporeans," he said.

"It's a SEA Games at home, and it should and will be a very big moment for many of the athletes to not only make history, but also to be a part of it in front of their own countrymen.

BIGGER SUPPORT

"That automatically increases the chances of Singaporeans coming down in numbers to show their support.

"That support will trickle down onto the skiers almost immediately.

"Becoming household names is just as important as winning medals."

Sasha Christian, who will be competing in both wakeboarding (women's and team) and waterskiing (women's slalom) is confident that by the time the events end on June 14, a glow will surround the sport.

"I believe that my teammates and I will do our best across all the events," said the 22-year-old.

"We've got a strong team this year and it'll be exciting to see the results at the end of all the action, and the medals and plaudits we will hopefully receive."

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