Teenage water skier Aaliyah Yoong Hanifah (pic) has taken a giant leap forward by adding another feather to her growing list of achievements.
The 14-year-old was in her element as she claimed a first ever podium finish in tricks at the prestigious Nautique Waterski US Junior Masters at the Callaway Gardens, Atlanta on Friday.
Aaliyah, a triple gold medallist at the 2017 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games, had taken second spot in the first round with a score of 6,530.
That was just what she needed as only the top three skiers out of six, progress to the final.
Aaliyah then stayed consistent enough when it mattered to produce a final score of 6,400, behind Canada’s Paige Rini who finished with 8,020.
It was just shy of her season best of 6,960 and some mark off her national record of 7,600 but it was enough to secure her a second placed finish after American Kristen Baldwin only came third with 5,570.
It is quite the achievement for the talented youngster who had burst onto the scene in 2011 when she won her first SEA Games gold medal aged only eight.
Aaliyah, who missed out on podium finishes in 2016 and 2017, was certainly pleased with her effort.
She said: “I’m quite satisfied with my runs because I managed to stand up on my first pass, which is the toes tricks, in both the first and final rounds.
“I did fall on my last trick which was the fifth flip and it’s something that I’m still not so consistent enough yet.
“It was a bummer but I’m still so happy to even get into the final in the first place and finishing second was certainly a bonus for me.
“Overall it is quite a motivating result as now I just want to aim higher and higher.
“I also couldn’t do this alone and I want to thank Nautique, Cory Pickos with whom I’ve trained with the past month, my family, friends and my sponsors who have supported me and gotten me here,” Aaliyah added.
Malaysian Waterski and Wakeboard Federation head coach Hanifah Yoong was also stoked with Aaliyah’s showing.
“She is eligible for four more years in the junior masters and she may even qualify to be invited for three events - tricks, slalom and jump next year,” said Hanifah.
“The target is for her to win the junior tricks next year so hopefully she can move up to the pro women’s level in two or three years time.”
The successful US Junior Masters outing concludes the national team’s month-long stint in the US.
They have been based at the Cory Pickos ski school since the end of April and also competed at the Florida Inboards Records tournament two weeks earlier.
Then 10-year-old Adam Yoong Hanifah had taken the limelight by winning the boys’ Under-13 tricks event with a new national men tricks record of 4,750 points.