DIVER Leong Mun Yee turned 19 on Thursday. But there was no birthday celebration of any sort for her.
She spent the day quietly in training with the rest of the team at the National Aquatics Centre in Hanoi. Then, she headed back to the Hacinco Student Village for some well-deserved rest.
“My friends and colleagues in the training squad just wished me happy birthday. That’s all. I did not want to interrupt my training by celebrating my birthday,” said the soft-spoken lass.
Mun Yee has a reason not to taper down her training. She may just be 19 but at her age, she is the oldest of all the divers.
The better known divers, among them Yeoh Ken Nee, Azheem Bahari, Farah Begum Abdullah and Low Lap Bun, have quit the national squad. They were all SEA Games gold medallists in KL in 2001.
Mun Yee is thus the most experienced diver around.
“There is definitely pressure on me to deliver the medals this time as I have the experience,” said the Perak-born diver. “I will definitely try my best to retain my titles in the individual competitions.”
The diving programme begins tomorrow with the women’s 3m springboard and men’s 10m platform events.
The Malaysian divers made a clean sweep of all eight gold medals in the 2001 KL Games with Mun Yee delivering four. This time, though, she will be happy with just one.
Like gymnastics, age is a factor in diving and her body structure has changed. To cope with this, Mun Yee has been learning a new degree of difficulty to catch up with her rivals.
“I plan to use the 3.4 degrees of difficulty in the 3m springboard competition,” she said.
“I have been polishing up on my routines with the team during our training in Shantou (an island in China) before we came here.”
Mun Yee expects stiff competition from Shiela Perez of the Philippines.
“She has improved a lot since I beat her to win the 3m springboard gold two years ago. In fact, she beat me for the first time in the Busan Asian Games,” said Mun Yee.
Mun Yee, who went on to win a bronze in synchronised diving with Farah Begum in Busan, and Aznizal Najib are the only divers who featured in the last SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.
The others, all between 13 and 15 years old, are Zibeon Uzza, Bryan Nickson, James Sandayuk, Gracie Junita, Khairul Safwan and Cheong Jun Hoong.