Close-knit friendship


Same wavelength: Cheong Jun Hoong posing with England’s Tom Daley.

PETALING JAYA: Two world champions from different continents but with the same determination to taste glory at the twilight of their diving careers – they are Cheong Jun Hoong and Tom Daley.

Malaysia’s 2017 platform world champion Jun Hoong has, over the years, forged a friendship with England’s most decorated diver Daley.

Jun Hoong posted an appreciation on her Instagram recently after she was gifted with a knitted pink jumper from Daley.

“Thanks for the special handmade gift, just lovely,” said the 31-year-old, who was a silver medallist for Malaysia at the 2016 Rio Olympics with Pandelela Rinong in the women’s 10m platform synchro. Both Jun Hoong and Daley also share a proud record as they are the last divers to have beaten top Chinese divers in the 10m platform individual discipline at the World Aquatics Championships stage.

Daley became the world champion for the second time when he won the men’s 10m platform individual title in Budapest in 2017.

It was in the 2009 edition in Rome when he became England’s first world diving champion.

Jun Hoong also made history for Malaysia in Budapest when she won the women’s 10m platform individual contest.

Jun Hoong herself is an admirer of Daley for his persistence in taking up the fight to the Chinese divers and giving the sport a high profile in Europe.

“I admire Tom, whom I’ve known for some time.

“He is one of the few divers who can fight with the Chinese divers and inspire us that nothing is impossible if we work really hard,” said Jun Hoong, who is hoping to shine in what should be her final Olympics outing.

Jun Hoong, who is on a comeback trail after three years on the sidelines following knee operations, is only competing in the 10m platform individual from Aug 4-5.

As for 27-year-old Daley, Tokyo will probably be his last shot at winning the gold that has eluded him in three previous Olympics.

The two-time Olympic bronze medallist is relishing the chance to challenge the world’s best again as he had arrived in Tokyo earlier this week on strong form.

Daley bagged two gold medals in the 10m platform individual and synchro with Matty Lee at the World Cup on his first visit to Tokyo in May.

“I knew going into Rio that if I’d won the Olympics gold medal, it would have been my last dive.

“Now I want to keep going for as long as my body can last, or (until I win) an Olympics gold medal, whichever comes first.

“The pandemic has given me more perspective and in many ways this feels like a bonus year or perhaps a victory lap for something that hasn’t happened yet.

“An Olympics gold is still the dream after all these years,” said Daley who has taken to crochet and knitting to keep himself occupied during lockdown last year.

Daley even launched an Instagram page to showcase his creations, one of which he auctioned for charity.

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