Ooi wants to sweep up medals, not sweep roads

Malaysian pair of Ooi Tze Liang (left) and Ahmad Amsyar Azman in action in the men's diving 3m synchronised springboard final of the 28th Sea Games at OCBC Aquatic Centre on 9 June 2015.

It is not easy standing out in a team boasting South-east Asia's best divers, including Olympic bronze medallist Pandelela Rinong.

But that was exactly what Malaysian diver Ooi Tze Liang did over four days and 24 dives at the SEA Games.

Yesterday, with three golds already in the bag, he and partner Ahmad Amsyar Azman won the 3m synchronised springboard, capping off a perfect meet for Ooi, 21, who won all four men's golds on offer.

Asked what his motivation was, the two-time Asian Games silver medallist said: "I knew I cannot study. If I still can't dive, I'd be sweeping the roads. That was my motivation to do well.

"I don't think about medals. I just imagine that I'm the main character of a show, and I am here to enjoy the Games and perform for the crowd."

While he was clearly in a buoyant mood yesterday at the OCBC Aquatic Centre, stopping for multiple interviews, Ooi, who had given the media the slip on Sunday, revealed his journey to the top was far from smooth sailing.

The Penang native, who trains seven hours a day, six times a week, said: "When I went to centralised training in Kuala Lumpur, I was 14. It was not easy growing up away from home.

"It's like going to national service, you have to take control of your life. Many talented divers fell by the wayside.

"But I can't, or I will have no future."

Ooi's performances helped his country complete another sweep of all eight diving golds.

Malaysia also won all eight golds at the last Games.

Yesterday, Pandelela won the women's 10m platform by a canter, with a score of 353. Team-mate Loh Zhiayi was second with 305.25 and Singapore's Freida Lim was third with 251.7.

Said Pandelela: "I felt a bit of pressure to ensure we won all the golds. I was also feeling a bit of pain in my left knee. But I just focused hard on my dive. Once I do that, I can't feel anything else."

Singapore was the next best performing nation with three silvers and four bronzes.

The seven medals represented the country's largest diving medal haul and bettered the two silvers and two bronzes won in 2013.

Besides Lim's bronze, twin brothers Mark and Timothy Lee added a silver in the 3m sychronised springboard yesterday, a repeat of their result at the last Games.

They were motivated to sign off with a flourish as they are enlisting for national service in July and will be taking a break from the sport.

Said Timothy who finished with one silver: "There was a lot of pressure leading up to the Games and we had random people coming to us saying, 'Bring home the gold'. Today was my last chance to get a medal and it really means a lot."

Said Mark: "Over the past few days, there were a lot of people watching. It shows diving is becoming more and more popular in Singapore and, hopefully, this is the start of something."


This article was first published on June 10, 2015.
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