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Wednesday July 20, 2011

Huang Qiang wants to compete in the Olympics for Malaysia

SHANGHAI: Malaysia’s hopes of bagging a first-ever Olympic medal in diving in London next year may materialise if former top Chinese diver Huang Qiang gets to make a planned return to competition.

Huang Qiang, who is currently at the world championships here as coach of the Malaysian team, received his Malaysian citizenship recently. Now, he is looking forward to realise his dream of competing in the Olympics for his newly-adopted country.

Huang Qiang was a former China national diving champion and won the Asian Games silver medal in Bangkok in 1998 when he was only 16. He won the World Cup title twice and was a strong gold medal contender for China at the 2000 Sydney Olympics in the platform discipline. An unexpected injury, however, squashed his hopes. He was then partnering Tian Liang and they were unbeatable in the world.

Welcome aboard: National diving coach Huang Qiang (centre) sharing a light moment with his charges (from left) Wendy Ng, Ooi Tze Liang, Pandelela Rinong and Trasie Vivien after a training session at the Oriental Sports Centre in Shanghai yesterday. – AZMAN GHANI / The Star

Following the injury, Huang Qiang turned to coaching. He was later signed up as a coach of the Malaysian elite squad.

He has since settled down with a Malaysian two years ago.

Edwin Chong, the Amateur Swimming Union of Malaysia (ASUM) secretary, said they have made an application to FINA, world’s swimming body, to allow Huang Qiang to represent Malaysia.

“He is now a citizen of the country. He can represent Malaysia as he has not competed for China for some time.

“But Huang Qiang has to wait for nine months under the FINA ruling before he can take part in a competition as a Malaysian,” added Edwin.

Huang Qiang is 29 and he is expected to focus on the springboard discipline.

However, Malaysia will first need to get a quota spot for the country at the Olympics.

Malaysia can make a bid to qualify through the ongoing world championships here. If they fail, they can make another attempt at the World Cup in London next February. There are more slots available at the World Cup compared to the world championships.

Huang Qiang has been quietly training on his own for a few months.

“It has always been my dream to compete at the Olympics,” he said.

“I was very close to being an Olympian. I had to pull out just before the Olympics started after an injury. I was already in the Games Village at that time. It was a sad moment for me.

“Yang Jinghui replaced me as Tian Liang’s partner for the platform synchro and they won the gold. I want to give it a try but first, Malaysia have to win a quota place in the Olympics.”

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