Bryan Nickson Lomas and Leong Mun Yee are tipped to give Malaysia a splashing start in the four-day competition by winning the men’s 10m platform and women’s 3m springboard individual events respectively.
Filipino Rexel Ryan Fabriga is probably the only diver able to deny Bryan from making a successful defence of the platform title while Mun Yee will be looking to turn the tables on another diver from the Philippines, Sheila Mae Perez, who beat her to the gold at the previous Games in Korat in 2007.
The Malaysian camp have also been boosted by news about the absence of Thai veteran diver Suchart Pichi, who is out of the competition after failing to recover from a head injury.
Suchart, the gold medallist in the 2003 Hanoi Games, was training in Kunming in the run-up to Laos when he knocked his head on the diving board.
Springboard diver Yeoh Ken Nee said that the Thai and Vietnamese divers also trained alongside the Malaysians in Kunming.
“We knew Suchart was to compete in the platform and springboard events but he is not here because of the injury. It is easier for our campaign and there should be no problem for us to win the men’s individual disciplines,” he said.
“Pandelela Rinong also looks good to improve on the silver medal she won in the women’s 10m platform in Korat.”
The only time Malaysia have made a clean sweep of the individual disciplines in the Games series was in 2001 in Kuala Lumpur.
Whether the divers can pull it off outside the country will depend much on Mun Yee as it remains to be seen how prepared she is for the challenge.
Coach Yang Zhuliang said that Mun Yee joined the team later in Kunming and did not have much time to work on polishing up her skills.
“She joined a few weeks later because of her university exams and that is why we picked Traisy (Vivien) to partner Pandelela for the 10m platform synchronised event at the Asian Championships in Foshan last month,” said the Chinese coach.
The exclusion of the 1m springboard individual disciplines from the Laos programme has denied the Malaysian divers a golden chance to claim two more medals.
However, Zhuliang is confident they can make up for it and meet the five-gold target.
“Bryan and Ken Nee took silver in the Asian meet in their first outing as partners (for the 3m springboard synchronised event),” he said. “The two are not evenly matched as Bryan is lighter than Ken Nee but I think they should be able to challenge strongly for gold here.” STAR