SEPANG: Chinese diving coach Li Rui has done what his predecessor Yang Zhuliang failed to do – help secure an early Olympic ticket in the synchro for Malaysia.
But it is not time to celebrate yet as he has set his sights on the biggest stage.
Li Rui is hoping to guide the divers to their most successful outing at the Tokyo Olympic Games next year.
The 41-year-old, who previously coached in Canada, was under immense pressure to deliver at the World Aquatics Champion-ships in Gwangju, South Korea.
And he pulled it off as Pandelela Rinong-Leong Mun Yee claimed a silver medal despite training together for less than a month in the 10m platform synchro.
Pandelela and Wendy Ng Yan Yee, despite not fully fit due to injuries, secured Olympic slots in their individual events.
Pandelela finished an impressive fifth in the 10m platform while Wendy placed ninth in the 3m springboard.
Li Rui feels the best is yet to come from the divers with one year to go before the Olympics.
“My mission was to get a top-three finish for the 10m platform synchro as this was the event where we finished on the Olympic podium before (2016 Rio Games through Pandelela-Cheong Jun Hoong),” said Li Rui.
“I’ve been here for four months and I’m very happy the women qualified early.
“We don’t have to worry so much now and our focus will be on finding the strongest pair for the Olympics.
“I hope we can be more successful in Tokyo and I’ll work hard to achieve this. I hope the divers too will have the same motivation,” he said, adding that Jun Hoong and Kimberly Bong, who are nursing injuries, will have the same chances as Pandelela and Mun Yee to win the Olympic berths.
“I’m not surprised with Mun Yee’s performance as she has been working hard during centralised training in Wuhan last month.”
The next assignment for the divers will be at the Asian Diving Cup to be held in Kuala Lumpur in September.
It is a continental qualifying event for the Olympics where only the respective individual winners will go to Tokyo.
“We will try to earn additional slots as there is also the Diving World Cup in Tokyo next year, which will be the final qualifying event.
“For the KL meet, we may be going to Sichuan in China for a month to prepare.”
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