PETALING JAYA: The sight of platform diver Quan Hongchan plunging into the waters with hardly a ripple will be a lasting impression from the Tokyo Games.
At 14, she was the youngest athlete but it did not stop her from setting the pool alight with three 10s en route to winning the gold for China in the women’s individual 10m platform.
It was amazing to see the tiny girl handle her nerves in what was only her first competition outside China.
If China can unearth a young teen talent like Hongchan, why can’t Malaysia?
Former national diver Bryan Nickson Lomas pointed out that there was no simple solution to it.
“What works in China might not work here,” said Bryan.
“In China, they start to train a kid from the age of six to seven.
“In Malaysia, our divers normally start when they are between 10-12 years of age. I started diving at the age of nine so you can see the difference in class and technique.
“Normally, China will pick the slender and very small sized kids for the platform while the heavier ones tend to be trained for the springboard as one needs to put their weight on the board when diving.
“When I was training in China during my days with the national team, I have seen the local kids in the provincial training camp. They often cry when they get a chance to call their family members at home.
“The training is hard and they will be punished for slight mistakes.
“It’s a different culture and I don’t think our Malaysian system is ready for this,” said Bryan, who under former national coach Yang Zhuliang, became the youngest Malaysian diver to compete in the Athens Olympics in 2004 when he was only 14.
Bryan went on to become the nation’s first and only world junior champion diver two months after his Olympics debut.
According to Malaysia’s former world champion platform diver Cheong Jun Hoong, Chinese divers train hard to achieve perfection for six to seven hours almost every day.
“China divers train very hard and even their internal competitions are very competitive,” said Jun Hoong. “She has become an instant sensation on the China social media after winning.
“I was at the venue to watch her perform (in the final).
“Unbelievable dives and as a kid, she had no other pressure but just dive,” added Jun Hoong, who did not get past the preliminary round in Tokyo.