Aaliyah makes a splash in Madrid

Aaliyah Yoong Hanifah

Teenager Aaliyah Yoong Hanifah capped a fine outing with a best-ever finish at the World Junior Waterski Championships in Madrid.

The 15-year-old more than made up for the disappointment when she failed to make the cut for the finals in the 2016 Worlds in Santiago, Chile.

The KL SEA Games triple gold medallist made a breakthrough yesterday, qualifying for the top-12 final of the tricks event in fifth place with a score of 6,020.

Aaliyah went one better in the final today by finishing fourth.

She managed 5,790 points in unfamiliar conditions to slip behind bronze medallist Daniela Verswyvel of Colombia who had 6,120 points.

Canada’s Neilly Ross led from start to finish to claim gold with 9,570 points while American Kennedy Hansen was second on 7,750 points.

Buoyed by the solid finish, Aaliyah, a three-event skier competing in slalom and jump, also finished fifth in the overall category with a total score of 2,357.41.

She had earlier finished 13th in both the slalom and jump, narrowly missing the finals by one spot.

Even more credible was she missed the jump final by a mere 30cm and slalom final by just half a ball.

Despite missing out on the podium, Aaliyah was still pleased with her effort.

“I’m pretty satisfied as I broke personal bests and records in the jump and slalom,” said Aaliyah who set a new national mark of 35.9m in jump and a new Asian open record in slalom with 3.0 buoys/55kph/12m.

“IT WAS BASICALLY THE BEST I COULD HAVE DONE IN BOTH THOSE EVENTS.”

“Tricks, on the other hand, didn’t go so well. I think my body equilibrium changed a fair bit in the last 12 months. I was gaining more mass, mostly from muscles and that set me back a bit.

“I will need to go back to basics and re-learn my movements in the off season.”

“Overall I’m still happy with fourth place in tricks and fifth overall,” added Aaliyah.

Malaysian Waterski and Wakeboard Federation head coach Hanifah Yoong said Aaliyah will now focus on improving her tricks.

“Concentrating on jump and slalom in the last 12 months took a toll on her tricks. We’ve got to get back to basics while maintaining a balance in slalom and jump albeit at a slower pace.

“We worked on three events because she is the anchor for our SEA Games team and she’s grown to enjoy jumping and slaloming too.”

“BUT GOING FORWARD, WE’LL BE WORKING TOWARDS GETTING ON THE PODIUM FOR THE 2020 EDITION WITH HOPEFULLY A GOLD TOO.”

Meanwhile, Aaliyah’s younger brothers – Aiden, 12 and Adam, 10, also enjoyed a creditable outing in Madrid.

Aiden finished overall 25th in tricks with a score of 3,520 while Adam, the national record holder and SEA Games gold medallist, placed 17th with a score of 4,410.