KUALA LUMPUR: Bryan Nickson Lomas became the first Malaysian to win a gold medal at the last World Junior Diving Championships in Brazil two years ago – in the boys' Group B (14-15 years old) 3m springboard event.
But he will be hard pressed to repeat the feat when the 16th edition of the championships begin today at the National Aquatic Centre in Bukit Jalil today.
The Miri-born Bryan sustained a hairline crack in his left thumb while training in Kunming, China, and was forced to skip the World Cup in China last month. He also reduced the intensity of his training for the World Juniors.
The World Juniors this time will also see the return of the Chinese, who are the dominant force in diving. China were not represented at the last championships because they were unable to get the visas for the team on time.
Bryan will be moving up to compete in Group A (16-18 years) competition and he admitted that it would be tough for him to get among the medals in the 10m platform event.
“I am still feeling a slight pain when I dive. The injury has affected my training and I am not sure whether I will be able to execute a good dive in the championships,” said Bryan, who missed out on a place in the semi-finals of the 2004 Athens Olympics after finishing 19th in the 10m platform event.
Despite the injury, Bryan admitted that the pressure will still be on him to get among the medallists.
“I won the gold in Brazil two years ago in the absence of the Chinese divers. But this time, the Chinese divers will certainly start as the favourites,” he said.
Besides Bryan, Yeoh Ken Yee is the other Malaysian to have bagged a medal in the series – a silver medal in the boys’ Group A 10m platform event in the 2000 championships in Canada.
Nine boys and four girls will represent Malaysia in this edition and they have had the benefit of six weeks of training in Kunming.
Malaysia's coach Zhu Shanming said that although Bryan is still carrying the injury, the team believed that he could deliver a medal.
“We are also pinning our hopes on Khairul (Safwan) and Elizabeth (Jimie) to win medals,” said the Chinese coach.
Khairul, meanwhile, feels that he has the chance to win a medal in the championships after falling just short of qualifying for the final in the 3m springboard event in the World Cup last month.
“I am in right frame of mind after my good outing in China and will go all out to win a medal,” said Khairul, who finished fifth in the 3m springboard event in the last World Juniors.
The 14-year-old Elizabeth finished a creditable 16th in the 1m springboard event in her international debut in the World Cup.
The other members of the Malaysia team in Group A are Ang Lian Shern, Seow Hock Mou, Naziratul Azween and Cheong Jun Hoong. Those in Group B are Ahmad Fakhri, Pardika Indoma, Abdul Afiq, Mohamed Fakhri, Ahmad Amsyar and Loh Xiao Min.
A total of 206 divers from 39 countries will compete in the five-day meet, which offers 14 medals.
Divers from America, Australia, Japan and Britain will be gunning to pull the rug from under the Chinese divers.
Three events will be contested today and the opening ceremony is scheduled for 3pm. Admission to the five-day championships is free.
The Malaysians in action today are Khairul and Lian Shern in boys' Group A 3m springboard and Naziratul in girls' Group A 1m springboard. Malaysia will not be represented in girls' Group B 10m platform.