KUALA LUMPUR: The Athens Olympics gave youngster Bryan Nickson an eye-opening experience in competition against divers almost twice his age.
The 14-year-old will now be on equal footing with his rivals when he competes in the World Junior Championships in Brazil next month.
Bryan, who warmed the hearts of Malaysians with a gutsy performance in the Athens Games, is among the five Malaysians selected for the championships, scheduled for Oct 26-30.
The others selected by the Amateur Swimming Union of Malaysia (Asum) are Zibeon Uzza and Khairul Safwan, both 15, for the boys’ competitions and Gracie Junita and Cheong Jun Hoong, both 14, for the girls’ events.
“I am looking to winning a medal in the 10m platform event,” said Bryan. “It will be a great achievement if I can pull if off.”
Bryan had the honour of carrying the Malaysian flag during the opening ceremony of the Athens Olympics. In competition, he missed out on a semi-final place in the 10m platform event by just four points and one rung short of the 18 qualifiers.
His rousing performance did not go unnoticed and Canada’s world champion Alexandre Despatie hailed him as a top diver in the making.
Being the youngest athlete in the Olympics also made him a celebrity of sorts with the world media making many requests for interviews with him.
Bryan said that the atmosphere at the Athens Games was a wonderful experience for him.
“Although I had to wait long to go into action, I was very excited to meet so many top divers,” he said.
“I was a bit disappointed not to make the top 18 semi-finals. I believe I could have fared better if I had not splashed too much water on my entry in one of the dives.”
Besides Bryan, Malaysia were represented in diving by Gracie and Leong Mun Yee.
The Asum secretary, Edwin Chong, said: “We are sending a big team to the World Junior Championships this time. Our divers are young and have showed great potential.
“If Bryan can display the same form he showed in the Olympics, he has a chance to fight for a medal.
“Zibeon, who is competing in the 3m springboard, also has a chance of winning a medal.”
The biennial World Junior Championships have two age-groups of competition – Under-22 and Under-19.
The only Malaysian to have won a medal in the championships was Yeoh Ken Nee, who took silver in the 10m platform event in Calgary in 2000.