SABAH divers James Sandayud and Khairul Safwan proved to be the brave hearts at the Aquatic Centre in Paroi yesterday.
Knowing that they were up against the stronger Sarawak pair of Zibeon Uzza-Bryan Nickson, James-Safwan raised their level of difficulty and it paid off with the 3m springboard synchronised diving gold medal.
It was Sabah's first-ever gold in Sukma diving. They only secured a bronze when they hosted the last Games in 2002.
Both the two pairs are from the national junior squad and they are being groomed for the 2006 Asian Games and 2008 Olympics.
But Zibeon-Bryan were seen as the better bet to clinch the 3m springboard synchronised diving title, having fared better in training over their teammates from Sabah.
That all changed when James-Safwan raised their degree of difficulty to 3.0 in the final two dives. Zibeon-Bryan had a degree of difficulty level of 2.7 and 2.8 in the fourth and fifth dives respectively.
James-Safwan, who have been partners since 2002, won with a total of 255.24 points while Zibeon-Bryan settled for silver with 237.09. Penang's Ang Lian Shern-Seow Hock Mao had a 222.81 for the bronze.
For 17-year-old James yesterday’s win was a long awaited moment.
“We competed with the senior like Yeoh Ken Nee and Rossharisham Roslan in the last Sukma. There was no way we could win anything because we lacked experience,” said James, who won the bronze in the 3m springboard individual event at the last Games.
“We raised our level of difficulty because it was the only way we have a chance of beating Zibeon-Bryan. We managed to execute our moves smoothly in the end.”
For 15-year-old Safwan he was also happy to have secured the gold for Sabah.
“We were not really aiming for the gold. But I am happy to have beaten my teammates in the national junior team. This is my first medal in Sukma,” said Safwan.
However, Sarawak were not to be disappointed either. They took the girls’ 10m platform synchronised diving gold through Gracie Junita-Elizabeth Jimie.
Gracie, who has qualified for the Athens Olympics, partnered Elizabeth to accumulate a total of 247.17 points for an easy win over Perak duo of Naziratul Azween-Cheong Jun Hoong, who finished with 198.15. The Perlis pair of Tan Sheau Ying-Xin Hui took bronze with a score of 168.24.
In synchronised swimming, the Selangor proved to be too strong for the others.
Led by 2001 SEA Games champions Suzanna Ghazali Bujang and Sara Kamil Yusof, the team of eight notched a total of 75.978 points for the gold.
Negri Sembilan, who performed to the tune of the patriotic song, Keranamu Malaysia, earned cheers from the home crowd when they bagged the silver with 69.872 points. Penang took the bronze with 69.172 points.