Mark keen to take on best Asian waterskiers

Mark Leong will go back to his books after the year-end world championships. But he still intends to compete, setting out a timetable to follow strictly study, training and rest times.
Mark Leong will go back to his books after the year-end world championships. But he still intends to compete, setting out a timetable to follow strictly study, training and rest times.ST FILE PHOTO

Leisure time is not something that Mark Leong is really accustomed to but the 17-year-old waterskier has a relatively clear calendar for the next six months.

Unless you count the gradual return to training, the preparations for the world championships in Chapala, Mexico in November, and gearing up to start school at Catholic Junior College (CJC) in January.

Having decided to take a gap year after his O levels, the teenager was able to focus on the SEA Games, winning a debut gold medal in the men's slalom.

Mark, who is one-quarter German from his paternal grandmother, said: "I didn't want to split my time (between training and academia) and compromise my performance on both sides.

"The SEA Games are a big event and were held in Singapore so I really wanted to do my best in it."

The next target, in the words of his coach Paul Fong, is to take on the rest of the continent.

The former Asian champion said: "We are doing this one step at a time. Winning the SEA Games is great for someone his age and everyone is definitely proud of him.

"But taking a break lets the euphoria pass, allows the athlete to come back down to earth and then move on to the next objective: To be the best in Asia and take on the Koreans and Japanese."

At the world championships in Mexico at the year-end, Mark will be able to gauge where he stands in relation to the best in the sport.

However, the world event could be his last international appearance before he hits the books again - at least for now.

Mark revealed: "When school starts next year, my studies will come first. I will still train but not as intensively."

But the student is still keen to compete even while giving his books priority next year.

"My studies come first but I will definitely not give up waterskiing.

"Even when school starts, I intend to train three or four times a week. I can also ski on Saturdays and Sundays.

"I will be making myself a timetable, where I will set out studying, training and rest times which I will follow strictly.

"This way, my time will be very balanced and organised. I did this during the O levels as well."

The timetable, tediously done on an Excel spreadsheet, includes the basics like school, lunch, dinner and bedtimes. He has slotted in training sessions, left some time for transport, and spread out his training and study hours evenly.

He has also set aside time for dinners with his extended family or to catch up with his peers.

Although he is a meticulous planner, Mark has not yet decided on how to spend his $10,000 prize money from the Multi Million Dollar Award Programme.

The Singapore National Olympic Council uses it to reward medal-winning athletes at the Olympic, Asian, Commonwealth and SEA Games.

He said: "I have not put much thought about it yet... I might get myself a new phone as I am currently using my dad's old phone.

"Or I may buy my dad a new bike as he loves mountain biking and does it every weekend. It is a way of saying thanks to him."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 24, 2015, with the headline 'Mark keen to take on best Asian waterskiers'. Print Edition | Subscribe