: "As a parent I won't force my kids to do what I want them to do, I just let them do what they want to do in their life," said Hanifah Yoong Yin Fah.
Hanifah, 69, was responsible in grooming all of his five children to succeed in their own sports namely Alex Yoong, 41, who was the first and only Malaysian Formula One driver, Phillipa Yoong (former national waterski athelete), 39, as well as Aaliyah Yoong, 14, Aiden Yoong, 11, and Adam Yoong, 9, who are all national waterski athletes.
Aaliyah, Aiden and Adam are slated to compete in the waterski event at the 29th Kuala Lumpur SEA Games (KL2017) here and all eyes will be on the Yoong siblings as they cruise their way to catch the gold medals for Malaysia.
The national head coach for waterski and wakeboard team said the success story of the siblings unfolded as they were exposed to the waterski event at a very young age.
"All of them started skiing at the age of five, I even let them swim when they were seven months old, and taught them to jump on the lake at the age of two. I was not afraid to let them jump on the lake but I made sure that they put on life jackets on them and plus, I have a life-saver licence...as a result, they looked so natural on water," he told Bernama recently.
What was more interesting, he said was that Aaliyah, the main prospect for Malaysia to strike gold in KL2017, had inspired both Aiden and Adam to follow her footsteps in joining waterski sports.
Casting his mind back, Hanifah said the 2008 Waterski and Wakeboard World Cup held in Putrajaya was the focal point that brought Aaliyah to where she is at the moment.
"I brought her to the tournament and that was where she fell in love with this sport. While there, she ran around between the legs of the world champions, met and watched them putting up a fantastic show," he said.
From that moment, Hanifah pointed out that he was extremely flabbergasted seeing Aaliyah's perseverance in forcing him to teach the three times gold medalist in SEA Games at the age of five.
He admitted that he had to reject several requests from Aaliyah to teach her in waterski as his daughter's physical size was too small at that time.
"I was teaching eight to 12-year-old kids in the waterski class and I did not think that I could teach Aaliyah. But I finally budged to allow her to join the sport and even modified some of the waterski accessories to fit her body," he added.
He said Aaliyah, the youngest ever-gold medallist in the SEA Games history when she won a gold medal in 2011 SEA Games in Indonesia, then proved to him by performing very well the moment she started skiing and vowed to become a world champion someday.
Apart from her amazing feat in the SEA Games, Aaliyah is now ranked number one for Under-14 tricks event in the current International Waterski and Wakeboard Federation (IWWF) world ranking and listed as the top 20 for Under-17 overall event by IWWF.
"As such, Aaliyah's success had galvanized Aiden and Adam to join the sport and they were also fast learners like their sister. They were exposed to this sport when my wife, Norzeela Sulaiman brought them to see me train Aaliyah after their school almost everyday," he said.
Hanifah said he was proud to see them do so well in waterski as Aiden is the current national champion for tricks and slalom while Adam is the current Malaysian men record holder for tricks Under-13 and the youngest athlete in the Malaysian contingent for KL2017.
The KL2017 waterski and wakeboard events will be held at Putrajaya Water Sports Complex starting Aug 25 to 29.