PETALING JAYA: Coach Yang Zhuliang has no time for sentiments.
All he cares about is picking the best pair to fight for a medal in the women’s 10m platform synchro at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August.
If he sticks to his guns, then Leong Mun Yee can forget about becoming the first Malaysian athlete to make five Olympic appearances.
The coach is likely to go with the Diving World Cup silver medal-winning combination of Cheong Jun Hoong-Pandelela Rinong.
Mun Yee had partnered Pandelela to two World Championships bronze medals – in Rome (2009) and Barcelona (2013).
The 30-year-old Mun Yee had also combined with Jun Hoong to take silver in the 10m platform synchro at the last World Cup meet in Shanghai two years ago.
On Tuesday, Jun Hoong ended her World Cup campaign on a high, with a fifth placing in the women’s individual 3m springboard final.
The Perak-born diver finished seventh with 327.60 points in the semi-finals to qualify for the top-12 final, where she stamped her mark with a world-class performance – chalking up an impressive 351.45 points. It was her best-ever finish in the 3m springboard at a top-level competition.
Amateur Swimming Union Malaysia (Asum) secretary Mae Chen said that Zhuliang was delighted with the performance put up by Jun Hoong, who helped Malaysia secure three quota slots at the World Cup meet.
Jun Hoong had partnered Nur Dhabitah Sabri to finish fifth in the women’s 3m springboard synchro last Saturday and win an Olympic ticket to Rio.
“We won all six quota slots for the women’s competition. The most important objective was to qualify for the women’s 10m platform synchro, as this is the event where we stand a genuine medal chance at the Olympics,” said Mae, who is also the team manager for the World Cup meet.
“It’s definitely the Pandelela-Jun Hoong pairing that the coach is looking at for the Olympics.
“Jun Hoong has been training and partnering well with Pandelela. We will leave Mun Yee to compete in the Diving World Series (with Pandelela).”
On paper, a silver medal at the Olympics is within Malaysia’s reach in the women’s 10m platform synchro event.
China’s reigning world champions Chen Ruolin-Liu Huixia have not lost in any competitions since they were first paired up three years ago. The gold is theirs for the taking.
“It’ll be a small field at the Olympics ... but still a very tough fight for Jun Hoong-Pandelela, as we are fighting against Britain, Canada, Mexico, the United States and North Korea for a medal,” said Mae.
Women’s individual 3m springboard final: 1. Shi Tingmao (Chn) 398.70, 2. He Zi (Chn) 387.90, 3. Jennifer Abel (Can) 354.45, 4. Maddison Keeney (Aus) 352.35, 5. Cheong Jun Hoong (Mas) 351.45.