“I started wakeboarding when I was 10, but when I turned 13, I found it hard to improve my performance. Since I had already reached puberty and was shooting up in height, my coach suggested I try slalom skiing instead as my body was a better fit for it. I thought why not?

From a non-skier’s perspective, slalom skiing might seem boring because there are no tricks involved, but the real challenge lies in passing each buoy perfectly and executing that consistently. I also love the speed! That’s the first thing that hit me when I tried the sport.

Yeah, I did feel the nerves during my debut in the last SEA Games; that’s just part of being an athlete I guess. Right before the finals, my coach was giving me last minute tips and reminding me of what we had trained for. On the water, it all became muscle memory.

When I finished the event and returned to the tent, I didn’t know that I had broken any record. I didn’t know Singapore had not won gold in slalom skiing in 18 years. I just knew I had met my coach’s target and that I had executed what I had been preparing for.

Challenges? I think the biggest struggle for me is juggling sports and school. It’s my last year pursuing my International Baccalaureate diploma at Anglo-Chinese School (Independent), and I’ve been studying for my exams and submitting all my papers which contribute to my final grade.

I’ve never been busier, and getting enough sleep has been a challenge; but, even on my tougher days, it’s quite rare that I lose motivation. I always love coming down to ski after school, and preparations for the upcoming SEA Games are going well.

It’s less than a month away, and I just want to thank all the people who have been there for me in my journey, even old secondary school friends whom I’ve not met in a long time, yet take the trouble to send pictures of me that they’d spotted around Singapore.

It reminds me that a lot of Singaporeans take the SEA Games very seriously, and it makes me feel good that they time the time to support their athletes. I really appreciate it.” – Mark Leong, 19

Interview by: Arman Shah