PANDELELA Rinong will lead the national divers to their most difficult regional outing in recent years at next month's Sea Games in Myanmar following the retirements of several established divers.Springboard specialist Yeoh Ken Nee along with Bryan Nickson Lomas and Huang Qiang have retired, leaving the men's team depleted.
Ken Nee quit after last year's London Olympics while Huang Qiang, also a national assistant trainer, was told to focus on coaching while Lomas retired early this year due to personal reasons.
The Amateur Swimming Union of Malaysia (ASUM) has selected 11 divers but five are competing for the first time.
Newcomers Chew Yiwei, Muhd Nazreen Abdullah and Danial Sabri (men), Loh Zhiayi and Nur Dabitah Sabri have been in the national elite squad for the last 12 months and are making progress but may feel the pressures of performing in the Sea Games.
Pandelela, a bronze medallist in London, however, expressed confidence the first timers will perform and return with medals.
"I hope they will not waste the chance of making an impact in the regional games. They must use the opportunity to gain experience. It will help them feel confident for bigger challenges," said Pandelela, after she was crowned Sarawak's Sportswoman of the Year for the second time in Sibu last weekend.
"I believe the newcomers can achieve their targets. Everyone is training hard for the Sea Games."
Pandelela is only competing in women's 10m platform as coach Yang Zhuliang is using the Sea Games as a platform to expose the second stringers.
Ooi Tze Liang, Cheong Jun Hoong, Wendy Ng, Leong Mun Yee and Ahmad Amsyar are the other Sea Games-bound divers.
Malaysia are expected to dominate the women's events but may find it tough in the men's competitions. Eight gold medals will be on offer in Myanmar.
Tze Liang is the most experienced diver in the men's team, having competed in several world class meets but has not met expectations.