NO Malaysian has made it past the preliminary rounds of the individual competition when it comes to diving at the Olympics but that should change in London when the action begins from July 28.
For the first time, the diving team have a real good shot at breaking through and it is no longer just about returning with their heads held high.
Diving represents Malaysia’s biggest team to the London Games with eight contenders and coach Yang Zhuliang is adamant that his charges, who have been training in Guangzhou for nearly two months, can create history.
The diving squad won 10 out of 12 quota spots for Malaysia from the World Cup in London, including three in the synchro disciplines for the first time.
And Pandelela Rinong (pic), who is set to become the first national woman flag-bearer at the opening ceremony on July 27, feels their chances are just as good as the rest when it comes to the synchro.
The 19-year-old diver will be competing in the women’s 10m platform, 10m platform synchro with Leong Mun Yee and 3m springboard synchro with Cheong Jun Hoong. Pandelela will also contest the individual platform in which she is the reigning Commonwealth Games champion.
She also took bronze in the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou and will go all out for a medal in the event.
Pandelela said her first Olympic experience in Beijing was not memorable.
“I didn’t do that well in Beijing but I’m confident it will be different this time,” she said.
“If I have no big injuries, there’s a chance to fight for medals in all the events that I’m in.
“The coach (Zhuliang) says we need to have more confidence in ourselves and I think we will be in a better position compared to Beijing.
“Bryan was also there and didn’t fare that well either. We have to wait another four years if we disappoint again so I don’t intend to squander my chances.
“We have a good shot in the synchro as there are just eight pairs in the field unlike the individual events where a country can place two divers,” said Pandelela, the National Sportswoman of the Year for 2011.
Pandelela has been going great guns this year despite having to contend with niggling back muscle pain. She finished runners-up in the prestigious four-leg Diving World Series and won the gold in the 10m platform individual at the Canadian Open.
Pandelela and Mun Yee were bronze medallists at the World Championships in Germany in 2009.
Besides Pandelela, naturalised Malaysian Huang Qiang and Bryan Nickson Lomas have the potential to make headlines in London.
Former China champion Huang got it right in his first competition with Bryan by delivering a bronze in the men’s 3m springboard synchro at the World Cup. “Previously, we couldn’t even qualify for the finals but this time we have a good chance to fight for a medal in the men’s 3m synchro and women’s 10m platform.
“Huang-Bryan and Pandelela-Mun Yee must raise their difficulties and work on getting it right for the Olympics. There’s a lot of hard work ahead if we want to get an Olympic medal. But it isn’t impossible,” said Zhuliang, who has been instrumental in the rise of Malaysia as a diving force second only to China.
Malaysia had the biggest representation of four divers in Sydney in 2000, which was also the first time the country competed in Olympic diving, and have never missed out since then.
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Dates Diving: July 29-Aug 11
Open water: Aug 9-10
Venues Diving: London Aquatics Centre
Open water: The Serpentine, London’s Hyde Park
Men: Yeoh Ken Nee (men’s 3m springboard), Bryan Nickson Lomas (men’s 3m springboard synchro and 10m platform), Huang Qiang (men’s 3m springboard synchro and men’s 3m springboard).
Women: Pandelela Rinong (women’s 10m platform, 3m springboard synchro and 10m platform synchro), Leong Mun Yee (women’s 10m platform synchro), Wendy Ng Yan Yee (women’s 3m springboard), Cheong Jun Hoong (women’s 3m springboard and women’s 3m springboard synchro), Trasie Vivien Tukiet (women’s 10m platform).
Coaches: Yang Zhuliang and Zhang Yikun (diving).
Team manager: Mae Chen.
Women’s 800m: Khoo Cai Lin 10km Open water: Heidi Gan.
Coaches: Paul Thomas Birmingham and Matthew Magee Best Olympic performance: Alex Lim Keng Liat (men’s 100m backstroke semi-finals at Athens 2004).
Swimming: Present since the first modern Games, swimming was initially held in open waters before rules were formalised and, coincidentally, it was the 1908 London Games which staged the first swimming competition in a pool. Malaysia have participated in the event since Melbourne 1956 but the best performance came only in Athens 2004 when Alex Lim Keng Liat became the first Malaysian to advance to the semi-finals of the men’s 100m backstroke.
Diving: Made its Olympic debut in 1904 with men’s 10m platform and plunge for distance - a diving long jump event, which never again appeared on the Olympic programme. Women’s diving was introduced in 1912 and synchronised diving made its first appearance at Sydney 2000. Malaysia made their diving debut at Sydney 2000 and have been ever present since. However, the Malaysian divers have never made it past the preliminary rounds although this might be the year we make a difference.