Sasha in cruise control

S'porean unruffled in wakeboard win, Mark breaks slalom Games record

RAIN and strong winds at Bedok Reservoir yesterday made it more challenging for the wakeboarders to impress the judges but Sasha Christian remained unfazed.

Going off last from the dock, she told herself: "Everyone else went through the same conditions. If my competitors can do it, I have no excuse."

The defending champion had no excuse, indeed, and completed a perfect stand-up pass. She executed tricks such as the air raley, heelside backrolls, toeside backrolls and ended with a toeside backroll to revert as her wildcard trick, to achieve a score of 59.00 in women's wakeboard.

Indonesia's Galuh Mutiara Malidina and the Philippines' Selga Maiquel Jawn who came in second and third with 43.11 and 30.89 respectively, barely threatened as Christian successfully defended her title, won in the 2011 Games edition when waterskiing was last offered.

After making a clean run on the first pass, Christian played it safe with basic tricks to cruise home as she knew she would not need anything fancy to win.

Earlier yesterday morning, she set a new Games record for women's slalom when she rounded three buoys on the 13m rope.

"I wasn't actually focusing on the record. I went second-last off the dock and watched most of the others ski so I simply wanted to edge them out, and did whatever it took," said the 22-year-old, who is in prime position to take the gold at Bedok Reservoir this morning.

Although her grandparents have difficulty walking and do not understand the sport very much, they came to support her for the first time in five years, warming the heart of the athlete who started wakeboarding at the age of five.

"My granddad wants to throw a celebration dinner for me to celebrate with friends and family, which is very touching.

"I'm just glad they get to watch me do what I do and see what I spend my time on," said Christian.

Mark Leong, 17, also broke the men's slalom Games record after rounding 2.5 buoys on the 12m rope in the preliminaries.

The previous record was one buoy on a 12m line set by Wangka Fath Daud of Indonesia in 1997.

Mark's result is also a new national mark, surpassing the record of one buoy he set at the Asian Beach Games last year.

His personal best is three buoys and he is targeting a repeat performance to win his first Games medal today in the slalom final.

Fellow Games first-timer Sabelle Kee also got in on the record-breaking act by topping the 23-year-old national mark in women's tricks with a score of 2,620. The previous record was held by her mother, May Lwin-Kee, at 2,320.

"I didn't expect her to win a medal today. I wanted her to break my record one day, but I thought this competition would just be for exposure as she is still too green," said her mother.

The 17-year-old's performance, which eventually won her a bronze, is her best so far as she did a stand-up pass, a feat she had not accomplished under competition pressure before.

Sister Kalya, 19, finished fifth but will be looking to excel in today's women's slalom - her pet event. There is no sibling rivalry between them.

Said Sabelle: "It was great to have her on the dock to calm me down. I got really nervous and started overthinking but she came up to me and bothered me a little to help me loosen up."

berelow@sph.com.sg

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