PETALING JAYA: All’s not well for the national diving team as they have to start the new year without an experienced elite coach.
The Amateur Swimming Union of Malaysia (Asum) are now in a dilemma as they face the problem of getting a replacement for Zhang Yukun.
The Chinese coach has returned to China last week although his contract was due to finish at the end of this month.
Yukun, who has been here since 2011 and was the assistant to Yang Zhuliang until the latter’s contract was not renewed, accepted a lucrative offer to coach in his home province in Wuhan.
Asum are waiting for Yukun to recommend a replacement but what’s worrisome is the uncertainties in the coaching set-up would affect the nation’s chances of delivering an Olympic medal in Tokyo in 2020.
Former national diver Li Teng and Australian coach Christian Brooker are the coaches now handling the divers but the duo are not in the calibre of Zhuliang.
A year has passed since Zhuliang was hastily removed from the national diving squad despite producing a world champion in Cheong Jun Hoong and Olympic medallists in Jun Hoong and Pandelela Rinong.
Asum secretary Mae Chen said they will stick with China-style coaching methods and hope to finalise things by next month but the question is, will be the replacement for Yukun be good enough to help Pandelela-Jun Hoong finish on the podium again in Tokyo?
Pandelela-Jun Hoong bagged a silver in the women’s 10m platform synchro at the last Olympics in Rio de Janeiro two years ago and they remain the best hope to repeat the feat in Tokyo.
Jun Hoong had to skip the Asian Games in Indonesia to go for knee surgery and is only expected to return to training next year.
Zhuliang, who now resides in Australia where he is running a small business, said he is not surprised to hear the Malaysian diving team do not have a head coach.
“It will be very hard for any respected coach to take over as there is less than two years away from the Olympics.
“It is unlikely any coach will want to leave China after what happened to me,” he said.