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Waterskiing's 'Yoong Ones' ride wave of success at SEA Games


Malaysia's Aaliyah Yoong Hanifah competes in the ladies' open waterski tricks event at the 29th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) in Putra Jaya, on August 26, 2017.

KUALA LUMPUR  -  Three school-age siblings -- aptly named Yoong -- have led the home team's charge in waterskiing at the Southeast Asian Games in Malaysia, jumping and spinning their way to a flood of medals.

Aaliyah, 14, Aiden, 11, and Adam, nine, picked up five medals between them, cheered on by an enthusiastic crowd and their family, including their coach and father, Hanifah Yoong.

They were continuing a family tradition at the biennial Games, after the Yoongs also won big at the last edition in Singapore.

The clan were missing some of the stardust from 2015 as their well-known half-brother, former Formula One driver Alex Yoong, opted not to compete in waterskiing this time around.

But that was no barrier to the trio confidently taking on opponents often twice their age.

Aaliyah -- who is now a veteran, having won her first SEA Games gold in 2011 aged just eight -- was the star of the show, winning three golds and a silver.

Despite being the youngest of the trio, Adam won gold in men's tricks, while Aiden did not pick up any medals.

Aaliyah, whose medals were in the overall, jump, tricks and slalom categories, looked easily the most impressive in her field as she span through the air performing stunts and jumped off a ramp at high speed.

Smiling broadly, with a Malaysian national flag draped over her after winning the overall gold, she said she had no fear about taking on older rivals.

"I have been competing with them for ages now -- my first competition was when I was six," she told AFP. "I just feel really relaxed now because they are my friends."

- Pushy kids -

Far from forcing his children to take up the sport, their father -- Malaysia's national waterski coach -- said the kids were the ones who pushed him into letting them compete.

"I always kept it away from them, I don't believe in forcing any one of my children to do what they don't like," said Hanifah Yoong.

Aaliyah in particular was "so tenacious, I had to do something", added the 69-year-old, a former hurdler for the Malaysian national team.

He described how as a little girl, she would sit watching him intently as he coached other children until he eventually agreed to modify a pair of skis so they would fit her tiny feet.

But preparing for a major tournament is a lot to take on for the children, and Aaliyah admitted it is hard to juggle training with schoolwork.

The Yoong children were not the only members of their family to compete in waterskiing -- two of their cousins, Syahir Asyraf, 19, and Nadiah Nasir, 22, were also on the Malaysian squad.

Syahir won two bronze medals.

While he was the least experienced, Adam also seemed the least fazed about competing in the mini-Olympics, and led the national squad in a raucous chant after one of Aaliyah's victories, while pumping his fist in the air.

"I am just going to try to do my best," he said last week, before competing.



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Muslim Global: Waterskiing's 'Yoong Ones' ride wave of success at SEA Games
Waterskiing's 'Yoong Ones' ride wave of success at SEA Games
Muslim Global
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