PETALING JAYA: Ooi Tze Liang, who turned 20 on Tuesday, now has a shot at becoming a star performer among the Malaysian contingent when he jumps from the diving board at the SEA Games in Myanmar next month.
The Penang-born Tze Liang has yet to taste victory at SEA Games level but diving coach Yang Zhuliang has faith in his charge making his SEA Games breakthrough.
Tze Liang, who has been diving with the national team for six years, has been registered for all four events – men’s 3m springboard individual and synchro as well as the 10m platform individual and synchro.
If he is successful, Tze Liang will only be the second Malaysian diver to achieve the feat after Leong Mun Yee, who hauled in four gold medals at the Kuala Lumpur Games in 2001.
Tze Liang is now the most senior member of the depleted men’s squad following the retirement of Olympic finalist Yeoh Ken Nee, Bryan Nickson Lomas and Huang Qiang.
Tze Liang was originally trained for platform but he has shown an ability to multitask with several good showings at the international competitions in the springboard event as well.
Tze Liang in fact qualified for the 3m springboard aside from the 10m platform at the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010.
After concluding a full season of the elite FINA Diving World Series with Ahmad Amsyar Azman, Tze Liang’s 3m springboard synchro partnership with the former seemed to have flourished rapidly.
They made a big impact at the World Championships in Barcelona in July by qualifying for the final and finishing a respectable sixth.
That earned them a berth in next year’s World Series and Tze Liang, who failed to qualify for the London Olympics in the 10m platform individual, made a good comeback in his pet event to finish a commendable 14th.
The 10m platform individual and 3m springboard synchro titles are as good as Tze Liang’s next month but it will be a touch-and-go affair for the 3m springboard and 10m platform synchro.
“I got a silver in Indonesia two years ago. Bryan is no longer diving and the responsibility is on me to defend the gold.
“I am optimistic I should get at least one gold but I will try for more. The coach wants me to dive in the individual springboard but I expect a tough challenge from my own team-mate Chew Yi Wei,” said Tze Liang, who is currrently training with the team in Guangzhou.
Malaysia should unveil its new pairing of Tze Liang and the Mohd Danial Sabri for the 10m platform synchro.
Malaysia have not won the event since the 2001 SEA Games and Tze Liang-Danial may well be the key to the diving team achieving a clean sweep of all eight gold medals at stake.
Indonesia’s Andryan Andryan and Adityo Restu Putra, who gained exposure in Barcelona, are considered the strongest challengers for the gold.
The last time Malaysia won the event was through Ken Nee and Mohd Azheem Bahari back in Kuala Lumpur in 2001.
by Lim Teik Huat - The Star