By Sasha Christian/Red Sports
Bedok Reservoir,Friday, September 20, 2013 – At the upcoming IWWF Asian Waterski and Wakeboard Championships, a team of five athletes will be flying the nation’s flag. Out of the five, one stands out from the rest, literally.
Introducing 15-year-old Mark Leong, who stands at 1.83m.
In just two years of picking up the sport, Mark Leong, a student of Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road), has skied his way up to be the top slalom waterskier in Singapore. Training three times a week, he rewrites personal bests in half the time most skiers take to do so. His height, natural ability and discipline all contribute to his success in the sport.
Mark, who started wakeboarding in 2008, was encouraged by friends in waterskiing to give the sport a try. In 2011, Mark agreed and waterskied for the very first time. However, the transition wasn’t easy due to the nature of both sports.
In Wakeboarding where the main objective is to do tricks in the air, the feet stance on the board is hip distance apart and wakeboarders execute stunts using the boat wakes at 35km/h. Slalom Waterskiing, on the other hand, is done on a single ski with one foot in front of the other, and skiers navigate their way around six buoys at speeds up to 58km/h.
Therefore the switch to waterskiing was little odd for Mark at first, but despite the initial obstacle of getting used to a new sport, Mark got hooked.
“The thing I love most about slalom skiing is the tremendous adrenaline rush it gives me with the high speed. The ability to control the speed is a real challenge. That’s what a love about this sport. A constant challenge,” said Mark.
At the Asian Championships held last year, Mark placed second behind Indonesia’s Indra Hardinata in the Under-17 category. This year, with the extra training both on and off the water, Mark is ready to take on the fight for first place.
Coach Paul Fong, who has been part of the waterski scene in Singapore since 1983, identifies Mark as a skier with a lot of potential.
Paul said: “I expect him to be a South East Asian Games champion, if waterskiing is included in the SEA Games in the future. If not, Asian champion.”
Coming from a sporting and supportive family background has made Mark the skier he is today. Mark finds inspiration and motivation particularly from his father, Paul Leong, who used to play rugby back in university. Mark, together with his older brother, Douglas, enjoy mountain biking with their father.
“My parents help me to move on from times when I didn’t do as well as I thought I should, and tell me not to look back, and to always look forward to what’s coming next.”
With Mark’s involvement in waterskiing, his mother, Ruth Chin, took up slalom skiing and his younger brother, Kevin, started wakeboarding leisurely.
“We do a lot of sports together as a family and it brings us closer,” said Ruth.
The 2013 Nautique IWWF Asian Waterski and Wakeboard Championships, incorporating the 2013 IWWF Asian Junior (U17) Waterski Championships, will be held from September 25 to 29 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Singapore will be one of the 14 countries taking part in the championships.
Team Singapore Members
Mark Leong (waterski)
Guy Tanaka (wakeboard)
Samuel Chua (wakeboard)
Kalya Kee (waterski)
Sasha Christian (waterski/wakeboard)