WHILE knocking the mighty Chinese off their perch might sound far-fetched for now, national diving head coach Yang Zhuliang is expecting his charges to reduce the gap on their invincible rivals at this September’s Incheon Asian Games.
Zhuliang is also hoping that the team will be able to retain their status as the continent’s number two in the sport – following their biggest ever medal haul of four silvers and five bronzes at the last edition in Guangzhou four years ago.
Once a non-existent nation in diving before the millennium, Malaysia have now become a respectable force not only in Asia, but also the world.
Since the 1974 Tehran Games, China were unrivalled, winning every single gold medal contested and there was no end to their domination in Guangzhou.
Their divers dominated a 1-2 finish in all the six individual events and clinched all the four synchro titles by least a 40-point margin.
“We will have to give them a tougher fight this time around,” said Zhuliang.
“And I believe my divers, who have improved tremendously in recent years, are capable of doing it.
“Our aim is to not let them win by a big margin, and not allow the winner to be decided as early as the midway point of the competition.
“If our divers are able to push the Chinese until the very last round, a surprise may even be on the cards.
“We have seen how they lost two golds in 2012 Olympics (to United States and Russia) due to their inability to cope with pressure. They are so used to heading to final round with comfortable margin.”
Zhuliang also warned that the rise of Japan, North Korea and South Korea cannot be taken lightly.
The diving team are currently in Guangdong, China for a one-month pre-season preparation stint.
The divers will be heading to three different competitions starting end of the month as the first batch consisting of Chew Yiwei, Nur Dhabitah Sabri, Kam Ling Kar, Jasmine Lai, Adeline Chin and Traisy Vivien Tukiet head to the German Grand Prix in Rostock (February 21-23).
Muhd Nazreen Abdullah, Muhd Danial Sabri and Loh Zhiayi meanwhile are attempting to qualify for Youth Olympic Games via qualifiers in Guadalajara (February 28-March 2).
The seniors of Pandelela Rinong, Leong Mun Yee, Cheong Jun Hoong, Wendy Ng Yan Yee, Ooi Tze Liang and Ahmad Amsyar Azman will then head for the Diving World Series, with the first of the six legs to be contested in Beijing from March 14-16.