Ooi Tze Liang celebrates with his gold medal from the men's 3m springboard. - GLENN GUAN / The Star
GLASGOW: National diver Ooi Tze Liang has been lurking in the shadows the last six years.
On Thursday (early yesterday morning in Malaysia), the 20-year-old finally stepped out to become a star in his own right at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games when he staged a splashing show at the Royal Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh to win a gold for Malaysia in the 3m springboard.
And he did with such gusto – beating favourite Jack Laugher of England – in the final with a score of 457.60 points.
Laugher, who had won the 1m springboard just a day earlier, fumbled in the fifth dive to settle for the silver with 449.70 points.
Oliver Dingley, also of England, took the bronze with 425.20 points.
For Tze Liang, the breakthrough proves that he may have finally overcome the mental barrier which had held him back for so many years.
“Finally, I am tasting the success of all my hard work … this has been a long time coming,” said Tze Liang.
“There was pressure and all kinds of thoughts were running through my mind during the final. I tried to calm my nerves.
“I always do well in training but somehow I always come up short in competitions. This time, I was mentally strong to handle the situation. I competed as though it was just a training session. I was not focused on my opponents … and I won. This is a very significant moment for me.”
Prior to his first gold in his second Commonwealth Games outing, Tze Liang’s best achievement was a silver with Bryan Nickson Lomas in the Guangzhou Asian Games four years ago.
“If not for Bryan, we would not have won the silver in Asiad. He was there to support me. This time, I had to do it all on my own and I’m glad I pulled it off,” said the Penangite, who took up the sport when he was eight years old.
“It all happened by chance. My father thought that diving would keep me out of trouble – and keep my mother happy,”
Naturally, he dedicated his win to his parents.
“I love you both (Dave Ooi and Soon Chuen Lan). But this is also for the people of Malaysia. It is also for my coach Yang (Zhuliang), who never gave up hope on me since I joined the programme six years ago.”
He said that his achievement at the Commonwealth Games would also put him in good stead going into the Asian Games in South Korea next month and keep alive his dream of qualifying for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
“I did not make the cut for the last Olympics … but it wasn’t the focus anyway, so it was all right. Now, I’m more confident … I believe I’m on the right path to Rio,” said Tze Liang.
Meanwhile, in the men’s 3m springboard synchro, Tze Liang was unable to add another medal to his collection.
On Friday, Tze Liang and his partner Ahmad Amsyar Azman could only finish fourth with their combined score of 353.31 points.
A strong finish in the final dive saw them moving from the last position to fourth in the six-pair field.