He got mum to compete too

He got mum to compete too
Water-skier Mark Leong and his parents. His mum Ruth and his younger brother also water ski.

National waterskier Mark Leong persuaded his mum to take part in the novice section of a competition

After more than three years ferrying her son, national waterskier Mark Leong, 17, to and from his training sessions, housewife Ruth Leong took part in a waterskiing competition herself.

Mrs Leong, 53, who used to waterski recreationally when she was in her 20s, says Mark "pushed" her to join the 2014 Singapore National Waterski and Wakeboard Championships in December last year.

He says: "It was a local competition with different levels, so my mum could compete as a novice. I told her, 'Hey, mum, give it a shot. It'll be fun to compete.'"

She was third in her category. Although she previously felt that she "was not good enough" to compete, she found that she liked "the adrenaline rush and the challenge", as well as catching up with friends from overseas at the meet, whom she got to know from chaperoning Mark on competitions abroad.

Mark has deferred his studies at Catholic Junior College this year in order to prepare for the South-east Asian Games next month in Singapore.

His father, Mr Paul Leong, 51, runs his own fund management firm.

Mark has two brothers: Douglas, 19, a full-time national serviceman; and Kevin, who turns 13 on Thursday and also took up waterskiing a year ago because "it looked fun". Kevin quips: "Mark always does it. Mum does it. Also, mum tries to get me off the computer screen."

The family, who are of Chinese-Singaporean and German descent, live in a semi-detached house in Yio Chu Kang.


When did you start waterskiing, Mark?

Mark: Back in Primary 4, I started wakeboarding with the HSBC Junior Riders programme, which came to my school. After three years, I switched to waterskiing because I wanted to try something new. My parents also waterskied when they were younger.

Mr Leong: Sports is a healthy pastime and it brings the family together. We believe in a balanced lifestyle.

Mrs Leong: We always encourage the children in their outdoor activities. When they were younger, they'd play outside before dinner for an hour, on their skateboard, catching or playing hide and seek.


As parents, do you influence Mark in his sport?

Mr Leong: If the kids are doing something they enjoy, we support it. We tell them, "Give it all you've got".

Mark is taking a year off from school for the SEA Games. Rather than be mediocre in academics and sport, he's trying his best to excel in one area for now.

Mark: My parents advised on the big picture and the pros and cons, but it's my decision to take the sabbatical.


What is your parenting style?

Mr Leong: We set expectations for our boys, rather than nag at them. Our philosophy is to help them learn to manage their time. When they were in primary and secondary school, we drew up timetables for them. We expected that, by evening, they'd have done their homework and some studying.

Mark: Mum would give verbal reminders. Sometimes she wants us to reciprocate by asking small favours of us, such as pruning the lime tree.

Mrs Leong: I like being supportive and giving them hugs.


Which parent are you closer to?

Mark: I'm close to both of them. I sometimes go mountain-biking with dad. We have a similar sense of humour. I like that feeling of dad and son bonding.

Mum and I spend a lot of time together. We talk about almost everything.

Mr Leong: We're always talking over family dinners. You need to set time aside to discuss important matters.


How were you disciplined as a child?

Mark: There was a lot of standing in a corner for a time-out, or no computer or TV time.

Mrs Leong: It was for things like fighting or throwing a tantrum. When they were in upper primary, we would take away their mobile phones.

Mr Leong: They'd sometimes get a little smack of the cane on the hand. They learnt very fast after that not to get in trouble. There was no caning after Primary 1.

Mrs Leong: After that, they were old enough for us to reason with them.


If the parent-child roles were reversed, what would you do differently?

Mr Leong: There's nothing I would have changed. They're all doing well. Mark got into Catholic Junior College after his O levels and

he's doing well in his sport. He's socially well-adjusted and has good friends.

Mrs Leong: I would listen to my mum more so that it doesn't seem like she is talking to herself, about cleaning your room or putting your waterskiing gear away

Mark: If I were my mum, I would ski more.



The 28th South-east Asian Games will be held in Singapore from June 5 to 16.


This article was first published on May 17, 2015.
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