Britain's Tonia Couch (left), seen here at the Diving World Series in Mexico last year, will be one of Malaysian diver Pandelela Rinong's (second right) biggest rivals in the Commonwealth Games in July. - EPA
PETALING JAYA: Diver Pandelela Rinong now has one more rival to worry about in her defence of the 10m platform individual gold medal at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in July.
On Sunday, her unbroken medal run at the Diving World Series came to an end when she finished fifth in the final at Moscow Olympic Pool with 364.00 points.
Average scores on the second and third attempts (69.60 and 68.80) meant she was never in a position to add to the two silvers and one bronze garnered from the earlier round in Beijing, Dubai and London.
Pandelela earned her second 72.00 for the afternoon from the fourth dive and completed her routines with a 81.60 but it was way too late.
Interestingly, Tonia Couch of England, her rival in Glasgow, finished ahead of Pandelela in fourth with 371.40 points while Ukraine’s Yulia Prokopchuk scored 380.10 for the bronze.
China’s Liu Huixia earned sweet revenge for last week’s fourth place finish in London by winning the 10m platform event in stunning fashion.
She scored 80 points and above for four out of five dives to chalk up 411.40 points, beating reigning Olympic champion Chen Ruolin for the first time in a direct confrontation in the series. Ruolin settled for silver with 397.45.
Pandelela had started well by finishing ahead of Huixia to reach the final in first place. She won the first semi-final with 359.70 points as Huixia slipped with her fourth routine, earning only 49.50 to go through in second place on 355.60 points.
However, Pandelela was not able to raise her performance in the final, and national coach Yang Zhuliang said fatigue was also a factor.
“She is tired and not pushing too hard in order not to aggravate any injuries. Pandelela will find tough competition at the Commonwealth Games not only from the Canadian divers but also the English diver who has been doing well in the series so far.
“The British diver (Couch) has won bronze at the Beijing round and when London hosted the World Cup two years ago,” he said.
Cheong Jun Hoong became only the second Malaysian after Pandelela to qualify for an individual final event at the series on Saturday evening.
Jun Hoong made the cut for the top six final in the 3m springboard individual after finishing second (313.50) behind Wang Han of China in the first semi-final.
However, Jun Hoong did not give a good account of herself in the final. She flopped the fourth dive, only earning 40.50 and ended up last with her total of 295.85 points.
Reigning world champion He Zi took gold with 377.40 points ahead of team-mate Wang Han (362.40) and Italian Tania Cagnotto (353.00).
Fellow Malaysian diver Wendy Ng, who had partnered Jun Hoong to take bronze in the 3m springboard synchro on Friday, did not qualify for the 3m springboard individual final after finishing sixth in the second semi-final (305.10).
There are two remaining rounds in Windsor (Canada) at the end of the month and in Monterrey, Mexico in early June.