The decision to put his studies on hold for a year gained valuable traction for Singapore waterskier Mark Leong, as he glided his way to a slalom bronze medal and a new national record at the Asian Waterski and Wakeboarding Championships yesterday.
National team-mate Sasha Christian also enjoyed a good outing on Bangkok's Rabbit Lake, finishing with a silver in the wakeboard final and a bronze in the slalom.
Mark, 17, who bagged a SEA Games gold in the same event in June, scored 1,144.74 points, finishing behind Lebanon duo Salvador Chiha (1,210.53) and Tarek Bou Maachar (1,157.89).
He also rounded 1.5 buoys on an 11.25m rope, beating his previous national mark of four buoys on a 12m line, set at the SEA Games.
A water skier's score is based on the number of buoys cleared, the boat's speed, and the rope's length.
Mark, who will hit the books at Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) for his International Baccalaureate next year, told The Straits Times yesterday: "Today was really an amazing day. I didn't think I'd get this far in an Asian competition. I'm really proud. It's definitely a great way to end (full-time training)."
While he enjoys watching videos of waterskiers crashing in his free time, that was put on hold in Bangkok as he zeroed in on a personal best. He said: "I spent a lot of time visualising the night before, and I watched a ton of videos - the great ones, not the crashes.
"The SEA Games really helped as well, in terms of teaching me how to deal with pressure."
Christian also set a new national record of 4.5 buoys on the 13m rope in Thursday's preliminaries.
The 22-year-old, who bagged two golds (slalom and wakeboard) at the SEA Games, said: "I was a little disappointed in the slalom. I qualified first, I had the benefit of going out last, so I knew what I needed to do. But maybe I was too excited and it worked against me.
"But overall I'm happy with the results. It pushes me to go for more next year, and I'm excited to go back to training, and come back harder next time."
Next up for the duo is the World Waterski Championships in Chapala, Mexico, which start on Nov 17.
Said Mark: "I'm definitely aiming for a personal best. That's always the target. After that my studies will be the top priority, but I'd still train. Waterskiing is a big part of my life."
Christian added: "It's more of an eye-opener, and I'm excited about competing against the pro skiers."