As Padiwat Jaemjan leapt into the air, there was an audible gasp at the Bedok Reservoir.
That quickly broke into cheers, as the Thai wakeboarder twisted his body, spinning 720 degrees, before landing cleanly back onto the water.
Landing a repertoire of eye-popping tricks, the 26-year-old showed off his class in the men's wakeboarding team finals yesterday.
Following up his individual wakeboarding gold at the 2011 SEA Games with another one on Friday, Padiwat's pedigree was the tonic Thailand needed to claim top spot in the team event.
They were missing 2011 silver-medallist Bunyalo Jumruang, who met with a car accident a month before the Games.
While Thailand had a one-two finish in the men's finals, with Tatsanai Kuakoonrat following closely behind his compatriot Padiwat on the scoreboard, Saitip Rotrakarn and Panyapa Tangsirirat had to step up their game in the women's finals, with Singapore's golden girl Sasha Christian posing a major threat to Thailand's aim of a second wakeboarding gold.
Points are given based on how each wakeboarder ranks in the men's and women's team finals and the combined scores of the top two male and female wakeboarders from each team decide the ultimate winner.
This year's Games was the first time the Thai duo were wakeboarding behind boats, having been trained as cable wakeboarders.
With just six weeks of preparation, they struggled to perform in the individual competition earlier in the week.
Panyapa finished last out of a six-woman field in the women's individual finals on Friday, while Saitip did not even qualify.
So coach Damian Lea Anwar was delighted to see them finish second and third respectively in the team finals, behind Christian, who again proved she was head and shoulders above the competition.
"For Panyapa and Saitip, who have been riding behind boats for only six weeks, it would have been impossible for them to beat Sasha," Anwar, 36, told The New Paper after the event.
Although Singapore was buoyed by Christian's performance, the team, which featured three debutantes including 16-year-old Gooi Jia Yi, had to settle for silver with a combined score of 255, 70 points behind Thailand.
"There was a lot of pressure because of the new team," Anwar said.
"I had to get the girls to perform. If they hadn't, we would not have won the team (gold).
"They took the first couple of rides to get used to the boat. So, it was not until qualifying yesterday that they started to show their full potential."
Anwar explained that wakeboarding with a cable and behind a boat posed different sets of challenges.
"The boat pulls you forward but the cable pulls you up in the air. Cable is rail-orientated but, for boat, you're doing tricks off the wake," Anwar said.
"In cable, there is no wake, it's just flat water. Just getting used to riding up the wake, that was the focus during training."
In the other two water-ski gold-medal events yesterday, 11-year-old Malaysian Aaliyah Hanifah Yoong won the women's overall competition.
She scraped through the jump, but trumped Indonesia's Nur Alimah Prambodo and Singapore's Kalya Kee in the slalom and tricks to win the gold.
Prambodo snagged the silver and Kee took the bronze.
Aaliyah's older half-brother Alex, a former Formula 1 driver, had to settle for silver in the men's overall event, which was won by Indonesia's Febrianto Febrianto.
At the end of the four-day competition, Indonesia reigned supreme with four gold, seven silver and two bronze medals, with hosts Singapore (3-1-3) second in the medal table. Malaysia came in third with two gold, two silver and three bronze medals.
This article was first published on June 15, 2015.
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