Somewhere between the latest sports news and social media, you may have seen national water skier Aaliyah Yoong Hanifah. Recently turned 14, she is already a familiar face in the local and international water skiing arena. Sweeping medals after medals in the Asian Open and SEA Games, it’s no surprise that she became the youngest gold medalist in the previous 2011 SEA Games. Wait till you hear the story about how Aaliyah broke the all-time record in the Asian Open women’s tricks in New Zealand the year after.
Growing up in a family of athletes, her background certainly takes the guesswork out of her passion for sports. Her older siblings Phillipa Yoong and Alex Yoong are Asian women’s slalom champion and former Formula 1 racer respectively. What truly sparked her interest in water skiing was her father, Mr. Hanifah Yoong, who is also the Malaysian Waterski and Wakeboard Federation (MWWF) head coach. “When I was five, my Dad organised the Water Ski World Cup in Putrajaya. I remembered watching the event and mingling with the water skiing world champions and record holders,” Aaliyah rekindles. “I was thrilled by the skills they possessed and was addicted to the sport then.”
With water skiing champions Regina Jaquess and Clementine Lucine as her inspirations, her intense training schedule showcases her commitment to becoming the best in her field. “I train six days a week all year. I also spend my weekends and holidays at the ski site when I’m not competing overseas,” Aaliyah shares. Having her father as her coach also helps whenever her schedule takes its toll. “Sometimes when I’m tired, my Dad would lower my training intensity and reschedule to five training days a week,” she admits.
From sweeping medals to breaking records, the measure of success is different for most professional athletes. Aaliyah, however, prefers to stay in tune to progress. “At the early years, my target was to gain skills and experience from training and tournaments”. Her perspective on progress over performance also made success sweeter at the end of the day. “After I won the gold medal in 2011 SEA Games, my rank moved to the Top 3 of the World (under 11) in tricks. Imagine being eight years old and achieving the Top 3 ranking in the world!” she beams with pride.
Shuffling between sports and studies was made easy with the personalised learning she discovers at Nexus, where learners are taught to be independent and self-regulated students. “At Nexus, there’s more emphasis on self-discipline and self-learning, which is similar in the pursuit of sporting excellence,” Aaliyah says before elaborating further. “My Dad also emphasised that an athlete will never succeed if the athlete does not want to succeed so badly herself. I balance sports and learning for myself because I want to.”
With a sports scholarship in her grip, Nexus continues to cheer through Aaliyah’s momentous water skiing journey. “For me, Nexus is the best school in the world. I’m grateful to the principal and my teachers who support my sporting pursuit and help me to catch up with school work via internet homework and revision,” she says. “My teachers pushed me to do my best in school but treat me the same as my peers without special treatment.”
For a professional athlete as young as Aaliyah, her sweeping success has made her the golden girl of international water skiing. Fresh from her participation at the 2017 SEA Games, she recently won gold medals from the women’s water skiing event and broke the national record with a jump of 32.8 meters!
Coupled with her unwavering positivity and passion in both pockets, achieving her long term goals will surely be a breeze. “When I was younger, I focused on being the world’s Top 10 and becoming a world class athlete in water skiing,” she says. “Now, I will chase for the world number one ranking or bring home the world champion title, which I’m positive is possible.”
This article titled ‘Aaliyah Yoong Goes for Gold’ was published on Nexus News by Nexus International School in August 2017. Kindly refer to this link to view from its original publication.