SEA Games: Mark his word, it's as good as gold

Sasha Cristian in action during the women's slalom final on Aug 29, 2017. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Defending champion Mark Leong in action during the men's slalom water skiing on Aug 29, 2017. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Defending champion Mark Leong celebrates after winning the men's slalom water skiing on Aug 29, 2017. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

KUALA LUMPUR - His first jump since 2015 saw waterskier Mark Leong crash without recording a score. There was no way though, that the 19-year-old was going to allow his SEA Games campaign to end in such a manner yesterday.

Undeterred, the teenager cleared 9.2m on his second attempt - finishing fourth and 39.3m behind gold medallist Zahidi Putu of Indonesia - but bore the grin of a champion afterwards.

He was one, after all. Leong had retained his slalom individual title earlier in the morning with a score of three buoys with a 13m rope. Indonesian Indra Hardinata (1.5/13m) and Malaysian Syahir Asyraf Nasir (5/14.25m) took the silver and bronze.

Leong said: "My dad told me winning one gold is great but to win it again, that's impressive. That motivated me to put in the constant work. The past two years there were a bunch of people saying they wanted to beat my (Games) record (4/12m, which he equalled in Monday's preliminaries). No one has."

Leong's mother, Ruth, said the second of her three sons is extremely competitive.

She added: "He wants to win at everything, even that bottle challenge (flipping a plastic bottle upside down to land it back on its base) with his brothers."

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Leong is also dead serious about keeping his word.

He almost never attempts jumps - the one in 2015 came after he had won the slalom crown as a way to celebrate - and had no intention of doing so at the Putrajaya Water Sports Complex.

During last week's overall event, he skipped the jump round as he did not want to risk an injury, but won a bronze thanks to his score from the waterski and skills segment.

He later promised the competition's two emcees he would land a jump if he retained his slalom gold.

"After I fell from the first jump, the boatman asked if I wanted to head back in but I told him no, I still have two more tries," he noted.

"It was important that I keep my word."

Earlier in the morning, his team-mate Sasha Christian clinched Singapore's 50th gold at these Games after she won the women's slalom final.

The 24-year-old finished top of the seven-competitor field with a score of 3.5/13m, ahead of Malaysian Aaliyah Yoong Hanifah (2/13m) and Ummu Sholikah (1.25/14.25m) of Indonesia.

Christian, who only returned to training earlier this year after a six-month injury layoff, had won the wakeboard title on Saturday, her third straight at the biennial Games after wins in 2011 and 2015.

She said: "The score today was pretty close between me and Aaliyah and she's only going to get better through the years. That's good because it's healthy competition as it pushes me as well."

She will compete at next year's Wakeboard World Championships and will spend a month in America later this year to prepare.

The undisputed wakeboard star of the region joked she felt more nervous watching Leong compete.

"It's nerve-wracking to watch someone you're so close to in the water compete, you can feel your heart beating so fast," she said. "Seeing him secure that gold - I'm so proud of him."

Compatriot Sabelle Kee added to the medal haul when she finished second in the women's tricks final. Her score of 3,450 is a national record.

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