Southeast Asian Games a family affair
Three school-age siblings have led the home team’s charge in waterskiing at the Southeast Asian Games in Malaysia, jumping their way to a flood of medals.
Aaliyah, 14, Aiden, 11, and Adam, 9, picked up five medals between them, cheered on by an enthusiastic crowd, family, and their 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 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 8, 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 6,” she said. “I just feel really relaxed now because they are my friends.”
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, 69. “Aaliyah in particular was so tenacious. I had to do something.”
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 was unfazed about competing in the mini-Olympics, and led the squad in a raucous chant after one of Aaliyah’s victories, pumping his fist in the air.
“I am just going to try to do my best,” he said prior to the games.