Malaysian waterskiing sensation Aaliyah Yoong Hanifah is all geared up to make a splash at the World Under-21 Championships that will be held in Boca Laguna, Mexico from June 13-17.
It will be the first world meet for the 19-year-old in four years after her waterskiing activities were severely affected by the Covid-19 situation over the last few years.
The last time Aaliyah made an appearance at a world meet – the IWWF World Waterski Championships that was held in Putrajaya in 2019, she certainly made a big splash after finishing in the top 10 in open women’s tricks and overall as a 16-year-old.
Now four years on, Aaliyah will be hoping to finally come of age and fulfill the potential that she has shown over the years by hopefully securing a podium finish in Mexico.
On paper, Aaliyah certainly stands a fair chance as she is currently ranked No 2 in tricks, No 3 in jump and No 2 in the overall event in the IWWF world Under-21 rankings.
But Aaliyah, who has had to balance studies with sports since enrolling with the Florida Southern College earlier this year, is certainly keeping her feet firmly on the ground.
“It is difficult balancing waterski training with my university studies since this is the first semester in university for me,” said the Yayasan Sime Darby’s (YSD) star scholar and ambassador.
“But I’m indeed very happy for the results from my academic efforts as it is very important for me that I put in my share of hard work to justify my sponsors’ support for my career in school as well as in sport.
“The same way I train and compete hard to make the necessary progress to justify the support from the National Sports Council Malaysia (NSC) and Putrajaya Corporation (PPj).”
For Mexico, the Malaysian Waterski & Wakeboard Federation (MWWF) has entered her in all the 3 disciplines of tricks, slalom and jump so that she can also vie for medals in the overall and jump categories in addition to her pet event of tricks.
According to MWWF’s head coach Hanifah Yoong this is a tough call especially with her being in university as well.
“Aaliyah has improved so much in her jump discipline and we just cannot drop any event because she is now suddenly in for a podium spot for overall and jumps as well,” said Hanifah.
“I think her best chance might well be the overall discipline instead of the trick discipline.
“But it will be tough in any world championship as it is not about records but all about physical and mental strength in all 3 events to do just enough to win.
“So let’s see how it will turn out. She is still young and only turns 20 in July next month so she has time on her hands,” concluded Hanifah.
A boost for Aaliyah this time is that she will be accompanied by her long-time Chilean coach Larry Gisler. The duo arrived in Mexico a few days ahead of the tournament to prepare for the competition.
Aaliyah is sponsored by National Sports Council Malaysia (MSN), Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD), Perbadanan Putrajaya (PPj), Nautique Boats USA, D3 Skis USA and the Putrajaya Waterski School operated by the MWWF and her affiliate WWWC.