PETALING JAYA: It’s better late than never.
Nur Dhabitah Sabri rose to the occasion just in time to save Malaysia the blushes of ending the FINA Diving World Series (DWS) season without a medal for the first time.
On Sunday, the 19-year-old sprung a surprise by securing third place in the women’s 3m springboard individual event in London, the fifth and final leg of the DWS.
Dhabitah turned in a career-best display to garner 344.40 points from five dives to finish behind winner Maddison Keeney of Australia (368.30) and Canada’s Jennifer Abel (353.05).
The feat made Dhabitah the first-ever Malaysian medallist – men or women – in the event at the series since its inception in 2007.
Although China’s Shi Tingmao and Wang Han, the world No. 1 and No. 2, did not take part, nothing should be taken away from Dhabitah’s feat.
She finished ahead of world No. 3 Pamela Ware of Canada and European champion Grace Reid of Britain in the six-woman final.
Dhabitah was surprised by the result too, considering how badly she fared in the previous leg in Kazan, Russia, two weeks ago.
Then, she scored a lowly 261.15 to miss out on the final.
Dhabitah had also competed in the 10m platform synchro event with Pandelela Rinong and 3m springboard synchro with different partners Kimberly Bong and Wendy Ng Yan Yee in the earlier legs of the DWS but failed to impress.
“Never thought I could win a medal in an individual event and competing together with awesome divers from around the world,” Dhabitah posted on her Instagram.
Amateur Swimming Union of Malaysia (Asum) honorary-secretary Mae Chen commended Dhabitah’s effort, adding that it has given the national diving team the much-needed boost ahead of the World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, from July 12-28.
“We are indeed proud of her achievement. It is really good motivation for her and the team,” said Mae.
“Our preparation for the World Championships in July is ongoing and as planned. That will be our team’s focus.”
Dhabitah must now build on this solid performance and try to qualify early for the Tokyo Olympics through the world meet.
Dhabitah can book her ticket by reaching the top-12 final in Gwangju.
She finished 10th in Budapest, Hungary, two years ago.