SINGAPORE - Fear gripped Jonathan Chan when he first stood on a 10m diving platform four years ago.
He had been a gymnast for eight years, and landing perfectly balanced on both feet was his forte. Landing on his head in the water, on the other hand, was not.
Said the 17-year-old: "Initially, you can't wait to jump off the platform. But when you are up there, you think, 'Oh, it's actually very high'."
Four years and countless bad landings later, the Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) Year 5 student is a far cry from the newbie who took twice as long as his peers to get used to entering the water head first.
He had switched to diving to try a new challenge.
Now, the national diver's pet event is the 10m individual platform - the very one that had unnerved him four years ago.
Next month, Jonathan will represent Singapore at the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games (YOG). He has also been picked by the Singapore National Olympic Council to be Team Singapore's flag-bearer at the opening ceremony.
Said the bubbly teenager: "I was quite shocked at first because this is my first major meet. It is an honour and I hope to do Singapore proud at the YOG."
The SNOC nod marked an upturn in fortunes for the youngster, who missed the cut for last year's SEA Games and watched as his peers went on to create history, ending the sport's 28-year medal drought at the biennial meet with two silvers and two bronzes.
In March, he finished 10th at a YOG qualifying meet in Mexico, where a top-nine finish would have guaranteed automatic entry.
A reprieve came two months later when he was offered a universality place by Fina. The world governing body for aquatics gave two slots in the 10m individual platform to expand the window of opportunity for divers from around the world.
The 1.61m tall diver hopes the YOG can be a springboard for success, the same way it was for national team-mates Timothy Lee and Myra Lee at the inaugural edition in 2010.
Said Jonathan: "It was inspiring to see Myra and Timothy compete at the YOG, especially since it was their GCE O levels year.
"The YOG will allow me to see where I'm at and I want to win a medal in front of the home crowd at next year's SEA Games."
National coach Xu Jie tips his protege to crack the top eight at the YOG, and potentially, the top six at the 2016 Olympics.
"Jon is naturally blessed with a good leap, a strong core, courage and a good attitude.
"What's most important now is the amount of training he can get. Ideally, he should train 30 hours a week at least."
Jonathan, whose sister Kimberly is also a national diver, hopes to emulate his idols Qiu Bo (China) and Tom Daley (Britain), whom he saw up close at the 2010 YOG held here.
He said: "They really amazed me with their dives and how little splash there was.
"I took pictures with both of them and I hope to compete alongside them at the Olympics one day."
This article was first published on July 01, 2014.
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