Thai wakeboarder set to take to the skies after winning silver
In a month's time, he would receive his flying wings and embark on his new career as a commercial pilot.
Tatsanai Kuakoonrat brought down the curtain on his wakeboarding career with one last hurrah yesterday, as he won a silver medal in the men's wakeboard final at Bedok Reservoir to complete a one-two finish for Thailand.
His compatriot and 2011 gold medallist Padiwat Jaemjan reclaimed his title with a score of 79.33, beating Tatsanai by 7.22 points. Mark Howard Griffin of the Philippines took the bronze.
"This result shows how successful our country is at the sport," Tatsanai told The New Paper yesterday.
"It was an expected result, but still, we did really well today."
The 29-year-old would not be compeing at this year's Games if not for an accident suffered by a teammate.
That forced him to come out of retirement and, although he had only a month's training under his belt, Tatsunai managed to rise to the occasion.
The silver medal is bittersweet as he calls it a day after these Games.
"I know I still have it in me, but I have to take care of my body when I become a pilot. So it's a shame to retire again," he lamented.
Tatsanai added that there are not enough young wakeboarders in his country to pass the torch to, and he hopes that the Thais' results at the SEA Games will inspire more of his countrymen to take up the sport.
On the other hand, the future of water-skiing seems bright for Malaysia with Aaliyah and Aiden Yoong Hanifah - half-siblings of former Formula 1 driver Alex Yoong.
Aaliyah, only 11, showed exemplary skill and composure on her two runs, executing four spectacular flips to earn a resounding score of 4,850 points to win the gold medal in the open tricks category.
Her nine-year-old brother, Aiden, was just as fearless, pulling off a clean set of hand and toe tricks to win the bronze medal in the men's event.
Malaysia's coach Larry Gisler said he was impressed by the duo's performance.
"We have to keep pushing Aaliyah. "Hopefully, in five years' time, she will be in the top three in the world.
"This bodes well for water-skiing in Malaysia. Today's results show that the system is working, and we have four or five more students waiting to make their mark in the next few years."
Indonesia finished one-two in the men's open tricks and gold medallist Febrianto Febrianto had full of praise for his compatriot Dimas Ridho Suprihono, who is only 14.
"Dimas is really talented and he'll definitely win more medals at the next SEA Games," he said.
"It's important for Indonesia to groom new water-skiiers because although we've been quite good at the 2011 SEA Games, other countries like Malaysia and Singapore have caught up with us."
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