Written by Ben Potter.
Malaysia’s only Formula One driver and current Audi R8 LMS Cup Asia champion Alex Yoong will be swapping his helmet and race suit for skis and a wetsuit when he represents Malaysia in the Water Skiing event at the SEA Games this week.
Since winning the gold and two silver medals at the 2011 SEA Games, Alex says he’s much better prepared for this year and looking to take the gold and a couple of other minor medals once again.
In 2001-2002 Alex Yoong became the first Malaysian to enter the world of Formula One, driving for the Minardi team with Mark Webber and two-time world champion Fernando Alonso as his team mates. Since then Alex has had a illustrious racing career in Asia driving in a number of series including representing Malaysia in A1GP, and the past few years competing in Asia’s premier one-make series the Audi R8 LMS Cup where he is the reigning champion.
The Yoong family has been instrumental in developing the water skiing culture in Malaysia. Alex water-skied heavily until his motor racing ambitions got serious. But after the 1997 SEA Games water skiing faded away due to the lack of a venue. Alex’s father then secured Putrajaya in 2008 and from then there has been a gradual rebuilding of the sport.
Both of Alex’s younger sisters Aaliyah and Philippa are both water skiiers. Aaliyah became the youngest ever gold medallist in the history of the SEA Games when she won gold in 2011. And Philippa has won two golds and a bronze since starting to compete in the SEA Games in 1997.
Asked when he first got involved in water-skiing: “Back in 1990. I was too small to drive cars, so my Dad introduced us to waterskiing to keep us out of trouble. Loved it from the word go and it’s toughest sport I’ve tried.”
Motor racing is a very physically demanding sport and race drivers are some of the fittest athletes on the planet, so are there any similarities when it comes to training for waterskiing? “They are actually quite different. Driving is all about having a good cardio base and having lean resilient muscles. Waterskiing is all about power and bulk. You certainly need it to stay injury free due to the high speed crashes.”
And how do the challenges of motor racing compare to water skiing? “Again so very different. Waterskiing is like trying to ride a unicycle. Once you start, you can’t stop for a pit stop and you only get one try (3 tries if it’s jumps). Competing in waterskiing is like riding a unicycle on the edge of a tall building.”
Alex has had to train for the games very carefully since he tore his left knee MCL in February. “Add to that the ruptured ACL in the same knee from a crash at Spa in 1999 and I now have a very loose knee. It needs a re-build but that means at least 8 months out, which would ruin my year. So instead I’ve just done lots of rehabilitation and I am wearing a knee brace to keep it straight. More importantly, I’ve managed to keep from getting any other injuries by limiting my training and taking lots of anti-inflammatory drugs.”
The South East Asia Games are being held in Singapore from June 5 to 16th. Alex will be competing from the 11th June to 14th. For more information about the SEA Games please visit www.seagames2015.com.