Odds stacked against Jun Hoong taming mighty Chinese divers again

KUALA LUMPUR: The contrast could not be starker when it comes to Malaysia and China in diving at the Olympics.

While China began their dominance from the time they made their diving debut at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, Malaysian divers first took part in the aquatic sport only at the 2000 Sydney edition.

Yeoh Ken Nee and Mohamed Azreen Bahari (men) as well as Leong Mun Yee (woman) had the honour of being the first national divers to compete in the world’s biggest multi-sport Games. Sadly, their challenge ended in the preliminaries.

It would take 12 years before our divers would end their medal chase at the Olympics and Malaysia’s quest for a first-ever Olympic medal, courtesy of Pandelela Rinong’s bronze medal in the women’s 10-metre (m) platform individual at the 2012 London Games.

Then, in the 2016 edition in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Pandelela partnered Cheong Jun Hoong to go one better by winning the women’s 10m platform synchronised silver medal.

In contrast, China have won 40 gold medals — and 69 medals overall — since the Asian giants made their Olympic diving debut in 1984.

If that does not make for bleak reading, then consider this. No Malaysian diver has beaten the mighty Chinese divers to the gold medal on the world stage except for Cheong Jun Hoong, who achieved the remarkable feat when she won the women’s 10m platform individual event at the 2017 World Championship in Budapest, Hungary.

So, can the 31-year-old Perak diver, who has been struggling with injuries ever since, do it again at the Tokyo Olympics? Well, don’t hold your breath!

This is especially so considering that she has been struggling with injuries since that outstanding dive at the world meet and the manner in which she secured her Tokyo Olympic qualification.

While hopes are high that the 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist would be able to repeat her 2017 world meet feat at the Tokyo Olympics, she is just hoping to be fit and perform her dives flawlessly.

“You may hope for that (to beat the Chinese divers for gold). But I’m just hoping to do my best,” she said.

Jun Hoong nearly missed the Tokyo Games before the International Swimming Federation (Fina) reversed their decision at the last minute to allow the top-18 divers, instead of just the top-15, from the Diving World Cup to qualify for the Olympics.

And that’s why, Jun Hoong said she is not fully prepared.

“Still trying to get my rhythm and focus in my training, and hopefully all will be well by then. I haven’t really (got to my best level yet) … I think I need to look forward and focus on my technique and ability for now.

“Priority now is to be injury-free or at least (keep it) under control… most importantly, be safe before departure, during travelling, when in Tokyo and returning,” she told Bernama.

Apart from Jun Hoong, the other Malaysian divers bound for the July 23-Aug 8 Tokyo Olympics are Pandelela (10m platform individual and 10m platform synchronised) Leong Mun Yee (10m platform synchronised), Nur Dhabitah Sabri (3m springboard individual) and Wendy Ng Yan Yee (3m springboard individual). None of the men made the cut. – Bernama