One month after the SEA Games, the architect of the Singapore diving team's successful showing, head coach Xu Jie, is leaving.
The move was announced by the Singapore Swimming Association yesterday.
Diver Myra Lee, 21, expressed surprise at the news, telling The Straits Times: "We didn't know about it until it was announced on Tuesday evening and we were all saddened by the news."
But the SEA Games 10m synchronised platform silver medallist added: "We understand his reasons for leaving. We know that he misses his family, and his wife and children miss him dearly too."
Xu, a 46-year-old Canadian national, moved to Singapore in 2011. He has cited his desire to return home to be with his family as the biggest factor in his decision to leave after his contract ended.
He was instrumental in lifting the local diving scene out of the doldrums when he built the squad from scratch.
Under him, the team managed to defy the naysayers at the 2013 SEA Games, returning from Naypyidaw, Myanmar, with two silvers and two bronzes.
Their better-than-expected performance ended Singapore's medal drought in the sport since a bronze in 1985.
They have gone from strength to strength since then, producing their best medal haul in the biennial regional multi-sport meet last month with three silvers and four bronzes at the OCBC Arena.
While their disappointment over his departure was evident , his dedication is something the divers will remember and are thankful for.
Lee recounted: "He's the most hard-working and dedicated coach I know.
"He really believes in hard work and would always make sure to go down for training even if only one person turned up."
The 21-year old, who was also part of the 2013 Games team, added: "I am grateful to him. He has brought me a long way and saw me through a lot.
"He was very encouraging and really believed in me and groomed me through the past two SEA Games."
Lee's partner, Freida Lim, 17, also paid tribute to the man who has acted as a father figure.
She said: "I have been with him since I started diving and he brought me up from a nobody to where I am today."
Xu was also more than just a coach to the team, she added.
"He was a mentor and was ready to listen to any of our problems even if they were not diving-related.
"And when we were overseas, he was like a guardian to us. He even woke up early to make breakfast for us at the apartment so that we would not have to get our own."
Xu will stay on with the SSA until the middle of next month.
This article was first published on July 16, 2015.
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