Sunday November 28, 2010
No gold but divers are Malaysia’s biggest medal contributors
THE divers did not contribute gold but they will return home today with their heads held high after emerging as the biggest medal contributors in the Malaysian contingent.

Malaysia grabbed second spot behind the sport’s top power, China, in the medal standings with four silvers and five bronzes, a remarkable feat considering that it was only their third participation at the Asiad.

Diving in Malaysia has certainly come a long way from the time when the divers could not even fight for a bronze in the SEA Games. It arose from the National Sports Council’s (NSC) recognition of the divers’ potential to excel after the hosting of the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia’s rise in the world of diving can be attributed to three Chinese coaches – Yang Zhuliang, Lan Wei and Huang Qiang.

Pandelela Rinong and Bryan Nickson Lomas’ rise to prominence on the Commonwealth Games stage and now at the Asiad in Guangzhou is due to the efforts of chief coach Zhuliang, with support from 1994 world championship silver medallist Lan Wei and 1998 Asian Games silver medallist Huang Qiang.

Zhuliang coached the Chinese national team for 13 years before moving to Malaysia to seek new challenges.

He left Malaysia to seek greener pastures in Australia after the 2005 Manila SEA Games but returned early last year and it made all the difference as Pandelela-Leong Mun Yee bagged the country’s first medal at the world aquatics meet with a bronze in the women’s 10m platform synchronised event.

Zhuliang is glad that the divers are reaping the fruits of their hard work.

“We achieved breakthrough performances at the Commonwealth Games (in New Delhi last month), bringing home four medals,” he said.

“The best moment was Pandelela beating the top Australian divers to the gold medal in the 10m platform individual.

“We have come a long way. When I first started my first day at work (in Malaysia), I arrived at 6.30 in the morning. I waited until 10 but no one turned up at the pool. These two years were much better, they changed their attitude.”

Zhuliang added that the next goal was getting the divers to qualify for the 2012 Olympics, starting with the world championships in Shanghai in July.

“We want to get as many divers as possible into the Olympics. We also hope to give a fight to the best divers, including the Chinese, in two years’ time at the Olympics,” he said.

“An Olympic medal is not impossible … we have a chance in the synchronised events as each country can only be represented by one pair.

“The men’s synchronised pairing of Yeoh Ken Nee-Bryan Nickson and Pandelela-Mun Yee will be the main hopes if we look at the results from the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. But they have to work very hard.”

Ken Nee, who capped his best appearance at the Asian Games with three medals in Guangzhou, also attributed his success to the training methods of the three Chinese coaches.

“We spent a long time training and focused on the details of techniques. We have improved a lot,” he said.