Passion won’t take a dive

Stay in sync: Pandelela Rinong and Leong Mun Yee (right) competing in the women’s synchronised 10m platform. — AFP

PETALING JAYA: Diver Leong Mun Yee has made her last competitive plunge at the Tokyo Olympics but she is not walking away from the sport completely.

Having been associated with the national diving team for more than two decades, Mun Yee wants to set up her own diving academy and train the next generation of divers.

“I want to contribute in a different way as I won’t be diving anymore,” said Mun Yee, who at 36, made a historic fifth Olympics appearance for Malaysia in Tokyo.

“I still have a passion for this sport and it’s also important to have new talents to represent the country in the future.”

Mun Yee had hoped to end her finale in the Olympics with a medal but it did not turn out as well as what she had hoped for as mistakes in the last three dives with partner Pandelela Rinong in the women’s 10m platform synchro put paid to their hopes of bagging the nation’s first Olympics medal in Tokyo.

Pandelela-Mun Yee could only finish eighth in the competition as the United States and Mexico joined favourites China on the Olympics podium.

Mun Yee took part in Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012.

She was not picked for the Rio de Janeiro edition in 2016 but she patiently waited for her turn to etch her name in the history books as the first five-time Malaysian Olympian.

“That’s what kept me going. I did not stop training even after the Covid-19 pandemic started as I did not want to give up,” she said.

“We worked really hard to come here and there was no regret although personally, it would have been great to get a medal. It was just not our day.

“I still feel lucky to have this privilege to represent my country in five Olympics,” said Mun Yee, who also plans to resume her Masters in Mass Communications after postponing the plan because of her Olympics commitments.

Malaysia Swimming secretary Mae Chen said the diving academy would be set up in Bukit Jalil alongside the current dry gym facility.

“We need to start them young if we are to establish our presence on the international stage,” she said.

“We are talking about getting those five to seven year olds to start on the basics as this is what China have been doing for diving.”

Mun Yee was one of the pioneer divers for the national team when the National Sports Council started to focus on diving in 1995 to prepare for the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games.

She was only 13 when she took part in the KL’98 Games.

Her glittering international medal count includes three at the world championships, seven at the Asian Games, three at the Commonwealth Games and an amazing 17 golds at the SEA Games.

For her, it’s not the silver that she won with Pandelela in the women’s 10m platform synchro in the 2019 world meet in Gwangju that is the best moment but their bronze finish in the 2009 edition in Rome.

After all, it was the first time Malaysia had won a medal in world aquatics championship history, joining China as the only second Asian country to do so.

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