SHE’S a shy 14-year-old girl, standing at just 5ft in height.
But Elizabeth Jimie walked tall at the Asian Games. Barely in her teens, Elizabeth has already achieved what many Malaysian athletes can only dream of and perhaps never achieve in their lifetime – win a medal at the Asian Games. In fact, she won two.
Elizabeth, the latest diving discovery from Sarawak, partnered seasoned campaigner Leong Mun Yee to take the bronze in the 3m synchronised springboard final on Monday.
She followed up on her impressive Asian Games debut the following day by shutting out the Japanese challenge to take a bronze in the 1m springboard final as well.
The 1m springboard final is naturally her stronger event at her age, as proved when she beat the Chinese divers to win the Group B (age 14-15) gold in the World Junior Diving Championships in Kuala Lumpur in August.
The strangest thing is that Malaysia’s youngest medallist was not supposed to have been in the squad in the first place.
Elizabeth only earned a call-up to the team for Doha after Mun Yee’s regular partner Cheong Jun Hoong – the pair won the Manila SEA Games gold in December – had to be dropped because of an injury.
Elizabeth’s form at the world junior meet was also another reason. Elizabeth is eight years younger than Mun Yee but is relatively tall for her age and the coaches felt she would be a better partner for Mun Yee than Jun Hoong.
After the success in the 3m synchronised springboard final, the Japanese media were already asking who the Malaysian girl was.
After all, they had never seen her on the international arena before.
No, the Japanese are beginning to view as a threat, along with South Korea.
China, of course, are on a different plane and these three countries will now be fighting for the lesser medals.
At 14, Elizabeth is hardly media-savvy. When interviewed by the foreign media about her performances, she could only smile.
However, she did say she did not expect to win a medal in the first place.
“I came here to gain experience. This is my biggest ever stage and this is also the first time I am competing with the legends in diving (like China’s world and Olympic champions Wu Mingxia and Guo Jingjing).”
Still, she will go home RM30,000 richer, the NSC incentives for the two bronze medals.
She has come far in a short time. Just six months ago, she was competing at the Malaysia Games (Sukma). Then came the World Cup in July when she finished 16th in the 1m individual.
After that, the world junior success beckoned. Now, she has Asian Games medals.
Next, she has to take it to the next step.
She should make it into the Malaysian diving team for the World Championships, which will be held in Melbourne in March next year.
It will be the first aquatics meet designated as a qualifying event for the Beijing Olympics. That will be the pinnacle.