PETALING JAYA: Young diver Pandelela Rinong is set for bigger things after making a strong first impression in the just concluded Asian Junior Aquatics Championships in Jakarta.
The 14-year-old clinched four gold medals in only her first international appearance for Malaysia and she has won a place in the team for the SEA Games in Korat in December.
The Sarawakian came out tops in the girls' Group B (Under-15) individual 3m springboard and 10m platform events.
She partnered Perak-born Cheong Jun Hoong to win the synchronised 3m springboard and 10m platform competitions as well.
Malaysia bagged a total of 10 gold medals to emerge as the overall champions. China, who only sent their male divers, took the remaining six gold medals at stake.
With Pandelela and Jun Hoong providing notice that they can shoulder the challenge for Malaysia in the 10m platform competition in the SEA Games, Malaysia are set to bring a strong team comprising seniors and juniors to challenge for all 10 gold medals this time.
The Amateur Swimming Union of Malaysia (Asum) secretary, Edwin Chong, said that Pandelela and Jun Hoong would be groomed for the 10m platform event.
Jun Hoong competed in the 3m springboard events at the SEA Games and was the gold medallist before injuring her back after returning from Manila two years ago. She lost her place to Elizabeth Jimie after resuming training.
“Elizabeth and Leong Mun Yee have done well in the 3m springboard and we did not want to break up their partnership,” said Edwin yesterday.
“The best option for Jun Hoong was to train for the 10m platform. Now it looks like we have a good pairing in Pandelela and Jun Hoong.
“Their chances of winning the SEA Games gold medal are looking good. They beat the Indonesian pair (Shenny Ratna Amelia and Herliani Dias Sukhamati) to win the gold in the Asian Juniors yesterday.
“This is also our best showing in the Asian junior meet. We bagged eight gold medals in Bangkok two years ago but China did not take part last time because of visa problems,” said Edwin.
Malaysia stopped China from making a clean sweep in the boys' competition in Jakarta with Bryan Nickson and Ahmad Amsyar taking gold in the Group A (Under-17) and Group B 1m springboard events respectively.
Except for Bryan and Jun Hoong, the other divers in the 10-member strong-team are still eligible to take part in the next championships in two years' time. The divers returned home from Jakarta yesterday afternoon.