Virus takes toll on divers

Training goes on: Leong Mun Yee (right) and Pandelela competing in the women’s synchronised 10m platform at the World Championships in Gwangju last year. — AFP

PETALING JAYA: Malaysian divers gearing up for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are facing uncertain times, no thanks to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Pandelela Rinong-Leong Mun Yee now have one fewer competition to look forward to as Fina, the governing body for aquatics, have cancelled the Chinese leg of the Diving World Series in Beijing from March 7-9.

Pandelela-Mun Yee are the only Malaysians to qualify for the prestigious series after their silver medal feat in the women’s 10m platform synchro event at the World Aquatics Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, last year.

Participation in the series is by invitation to only the top six pairs in synchro and top eight for the individual. Pandelela also made the cut for the 10m platform individual after finishing fifth in Gwangju. Beijing is the only Asian leg of the series. Canada will host the opening leg in Montreal from Feb 28-March 1 followed by two more stops in Kazan, Russia, from March 20-22 and London from March 27-29.

The Diving World Cup scheduled to take place in Tokyo from April 21-26 may also be under threat if the virus is not contained soon. The World Cup is the final Olympic qualifying meet but the organisers may have no choice but to postpone it if there is a directive from the local government.

Japan now has more than 600 confirmed cases, most of which have been recorded on board a cruise ship docked off the port city of Yokohama.

Pandelela-Mun Yee are scheduled to travel to Montreal this weekend where they have a good chance to claim a podium place, especially in the absence of the Chinese divers.

The Chinese are facing travel restrictions in most countries to contain the spread of the disease.

“All we can do is train and wait. Our divers have already cut short their training stint in China and put off any plans to return there due to the current situation.

“Fina have not issued any new directive but I believe they are monitoring the situation. We will abide by any directive, ” said Amateur Swimming Union of Malaysia secretary Mae Chen.

Four divers – Pandelela, Mun Yee, Wendy Ng Yan Yee and Nur Dhabitah Sabri – have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics to date.

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