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Wednesday October 10, 2012

Zhiayi makes big impact by taking fifth place in platform Group B

PETALING JAYA: Malaysian divers got their campaign off the ground with a creditable fifth placing by Loh Zhiayi in the girls’ platform Group B (aged 14-15) at the World Junior Championships in Adelaide.

The 15-year-old has certainly made a big impact in her first major outing by scoring 352.90 points despite having the second lowest degree of difficulties among the finalists.

Her rapid improvement – from a Sukma gold medallist to a World Junior Championships finalist – could not have been possible without the guidance of diving head coach Yang Zhuliang, whose current contract is until the end of this month.

The coach is in two minds about staying on as he also has an offer from Australia.

But the National Sports Council (NSC) are ready to counter it by offering him a revised two-year contract, with an option for another two years, when he returns home later this month after the world junior meet.

NSC director general Datuk Seri Zolkples Embong said Zhuliang’s salary will be raised as “we want him to stay and take charge of the preparations leading to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro”.

Although Zolkples did not reveal the amount, it is learnt that NSC are offering him a US$2,000 pay rise.

The Chinese coach, who guided Pandelela Rinong to an historic bronze medal at the London Olympics recently, is believed to be getting US$5,000 a month now and the new salary will make him the highest paid foreign coach in Malaysia.

Former Olympic gold medallist doubles legend Rexy Mainaky was the highest paid – US$15,000 a month – but he left for the Philippines earlier this year.

“We have drafted a new contract and we hope it will be favourable to him. He was supposed to discuss his future with us by next week after the world junior meet but he will not be back yet. The discussion should take place later this month,” said Zolkples.

“Zhuliang has done a lot for the sport here and we hope he’ll agree to continue working here.”

Zhuliang boasts a perfect resume of having delivered medals for Malaysia at all levels of the sport since he agreed to come back in 2009 after a four-year stint as the development coach with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in Adelaide.

Zhuliang first came in late of 2001 but left in 2005 to take up the coaching offer in Australia, where he was subsequently given citizenship.

It will be crucial for him to stay here if the current batch of juniors are to continue to rise through the ranks as Zhiayi showed yesterday.

Zhiayi, who won two gold medals at the Kuantan Sukma in July, impressed by qualifying fourth highest for the top 12-final after the preliminaries.

China had a one-two finish with Si Yajie amassing 425.15 points to finish on top ahead of team-mate Lian Jie (379.55). Mexico’s Alejandra Orozco (373.20) took bronze.

Zhiayi, who has the potential to take over from Pandelela, will compete in the 3m springboard on Saturday.

Chew Yiwei just missed out on the boys’ Group A (16-18) 3m springboard final when he finished 13th in the preliminaries.

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