Making his mark on Asian stage

Singapore's Mark Leong, 18, won his first Asian slalom title at the Asian Waterski & Wakeboard Championships in Korea on Saturday, rounding 4.5 buoys on the 12m rope.
Singapore's Mark Leong, 18, won his first Asian slalom title at the Asian Waterski & Wakeboard Championships in Korea on Saturday, rounding 4.5 buoys on the 12m rope.PHOTO: SINGAPORE WATERSKI & WAKEBOARD FEDERATION

Winning a maiden Asian slalom title was due to his emphasis on strength and conditioning

He is already the champion of South-east Asia but waterskier Mark Leong can now call himself the champion of Asia too.

The 18-year-old Singaporean captured his first Asian waterskiing slalom title on Saturday, rounding 4.5 buoys on the 12m rope at the Asian Waterski & Wakeboard Championships at Lake Bulgap in Yeonggwang-gun county, South Korea.

Mark, who was third in last year's edition in Bangkok, was the only athlete in the 10-man final on a 12m rope. South Korea's Jeong Ji Min and Cho Beom Geun, both on 13m, were second and third respectively.

Speaking to The Straits Times yesterday, an elated Mark, the reigning SEA Games champion, described his victory as a "surprise", given the high standard of competition he had experienced last year.

"Coming into this year's competition, I didn't feel it would be an easy one - and it wasn't," he said.

STRONG ATTRIBUTES

Working on my physical strength really helped. My skiing technique hasn't changed that much, but because of the improved strength and conditioning, I've been able to ski more consistently.

MARK LEONG, national waterskier, on improvements he has made this year.

"In the end, I had a bit of luck on my side, and managed to stay focused during the final."

Citing his strength and conditioning training at the Singapore Sports Institute as a key factor that contributed to his triumph, he added: "Working on my physical strength really helped.

"My skiing technique hasn't changed that much, but because of the improved strength and conditioning, I've been able to ski more consistently."

The Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) student reached home at 3am yesterday morning and had to attend school later in the day, but he does not intend to take a prolonged break from training.

He said: "The SEA Games last year was a big one for the athletes and our families so we thought we'd take a break to celebrate, and that lasted two weeks at most.

"This time, I think I shouldn't take that long a break as I really don't want to lose that momentum."

Mark's commitment to training well is the reason Paul Fong, high performance manager at the Singapore Waterski & Wakeboard Federation, is not surprised by his progress over the past year.

Fong, a former Asian champion, added: "We hope he continues to defend his Asian title in the years to come, and at some point set a new Asian slalom record."

If Mark is daunted by the expectations, he is showing no sign of it.

"I don't feel any additional pressure, because I don't think about having different scores to live up to," he said.

"I'm just going to stick to my own training programme and focus on what I need to do, and the rest will come as a result of my actions."

He aims to retain his Asian and SEA Games titles next year.

"This year's Asian Championships have given me a confidence boost because it just shows that dreams can come true," he said.

"Things I thought were impossible are not, as long as you stay focused and believe you can do it.

"It's allowed me to get into the mindset that I can take on bigger competitions in the future."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 30, 2016, with the headline 'Making his mark on Asian stage'. Print Edition | Subscribe