16-year old Sylvester Gaing from Sarawak has been drafted into the elite national diving squad because the coaches see huge potential in him.
KUALA LUMPUR: It’s not often that one can get off scot-free for being late for work or training.
But young diver Sylvester Gaing can breathe easy after arriving late for training on Wednesday.
His excuse? Well, the 16-year-old had to rush to apply for an international passport in the morning so that he will be able to leave with the seniors on Saturday for a month-long training stint in Guangzhou.
Sylvester has been fast tracked into the national elite squad, making him the third Sarawak diver after London Olympic bronze medallist Pandelela Rinong and Trasie Vivien Tukiet.
He is the only one promoted this year and, if everything goes according to plan, Sylvester, who only joined the Pelapis (back-up) programme last November, will be heading to Glasgow with the team for the Commonwealth Games in July.
He may be scrawny and yet to develop a stronger body but head coach Yang Zhuliang sees the potential in him to be groomed into one of the top divers for the country.
In fact, Zhuliang is targeting to get Sylvester ready by the time the Commonwealth Games swing into action in July.
“If you ask me now, he is definitely not ready for any international competitions. That’s why we moved him straight from Pelapis to the elite squad so that we can work on him for the next six months,” said Zhuliang.
“The Commonwealth Games offers more chances for our divers to pick up medals, with two pairs for synchro and three entries for individual.
“Sylvester must first develop the set of dives in China and improve on it from there.
“He has good potential in platform and I hope he can be like Bryan Nickson Lomas one day.
“We do not have enough male divers now in the senior team and I hope Sylvester proves me right.”
Sylvester, who is from the Iban community, was delighted to hear of his rapid move up the ranks but he is also aware that he has a long way to go before he can become as good as his idol Bryan.
Sylvester has yet to win a medal even in Sukma (Malaysia Games). His best effort was a fourth placing in the platform event at the Malacca Sukma in 2010. He did not take part in Kuantan two years ago.
“I’m definitely going to the Perlis Sukma in May ... the pressure will be on me to deliver medals now that I am in the national elite team,” said Sylvester.
“It’s good but also a heavy burden to shoulder in the national team.
“I’m looking forward to going outside the country this weekend and my parents are happy for me.
“Right now, the coach has not decided whether I’m to focus on springboard or platform ... he only wants me to work hard.”
Sylvester’s presence makes it six male divers in the national team. The others are Ahmad Amsyar, Chew Yiwei, Mohd Danial Sabri, Mohd Nazreen and Myanmar SEA Games triple gold medallist Ooi Tze Liang.
There are a total of 10 woman divers in the team – Pandelela, Trasie, Leong Mun Yee, Cheong Jun Hoong, Wendy Ng Yan Yee, Dhabitah Nur Sabri, Loh Zhiayi, Adeline Chin, Kam Ling Kar and Jasmine Lai.
The divers will head separately to three different competitions starting from next month. Yiwei, Dhabitah, Ling Kar, Jasmine, Adeline and Trasie will go for the German Grand Prix in Rostock while Nazreen, Danial and Zhiayi have the Youth Olympic Games qualifiers in Guadalajara.
The seniors will get ready for the Diving World Series, with the first of six legs kicking off in Beijing from March 14-16.